Define: Concealed Weapon

Concealed Weapon
Concealed Weapon
Quick Summary of Concealed Weapon

A concealed weapon refers to any type of weapon that is hidden or not readily visible to others. This can include firearms, knives, or other dangerous objects. In legal contexts, carrying a concealed weapon may be subject to specific regulations and requirements depending on the jurisdiction. Laws regarding concealed carry vary widely between regions, with some places allowing it under certain conditions, such as obtaining a permit, while others prohibit it entirely. Possessing or carrying a concealed weapon without proper authorisation may result in criminal charges and legal consequences.

What is the dictionary definition of Concealed Weapon?
Dictionary Definition of Concealed Weapon

n. a weapon, particularly a handgun, which is kept hidden on one’s person, or under one’s control (in a glove compartment or under a car seat). Carrying a concealed weapon is a crime in most states unless the party with the weapon is a law enforcement officer or has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. A permit is usually issued by local law enforcement under guidelines of need-such as being a carrier of large amounts of cash in business-and having a record free of convictions, arrests or improper activity.

Full Definition Of Concealed Weapon

The topic of concealed weapons encompasses a complex intersection of legal, social, and ethical considerations. This overview aims to provide a comprehensive examination of the laws governing concealed weapons in the United Kingdom, touching upon historical context, current legislation, the rationale behind these laws, and their implications for individuals and society.

Historical Context

Historically, the regulation of weapons in the UK has evolved significantly. During the medieval period, there was little in the way of formal legislation regarding the carrying of weapons. However, as society progressed and the need for public order became more pronounced, various laws began to emerge. One of the earliest examples is the Statute of Northampton 1328, which aimed to restrict the carrying of arms in public.

In the centuries that followed, the regulation of weapons became more stringent, especially with the rise of gun crime and the increasing sophistication of firearms. The Pistols Act 1903 marked one of the first significant pieces of modern legislation, requiring a licence to purchase a handgun. Subsequent acts, such as the Firearms Act 1920 and the Firearms Act 1968, further tightened regulations, reflecting the government’s ongoing concern with public safety.

Current Legislation

Today, the carrying of concealed weapons in the UK is primarily governed by the Firearms Act 1968 and its subsequent amendments. This legislation outlines strict controls on the possession, use, and sale of firearms and other weapons. Key provisions of the Act include:

Firearms and Ammunition

Under the Firearms Act 1968, it is illegal to possess, purchase, or acquire any firearm or ammunition without a valid firearm certificate. The Act defines a firearm as any lethal barrelled weapon from which a shot, bullet, or other missile can be discharged. This includes not only traditional firearms but also air guns and certain types of imitation firearms.

Offensive Weapons

The Criminal Justice Act 1988 further regulates the possession of offensive weapons in public places. An offensive weapon is defined as any article made or adapted for causing injury or intended by the person having it with them for such use. This broad definition includes knives, knuckledusters, and other items that could be used to inflict harm. The Act makes it an offence to carry such items in public without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

Concealed Weapons

The term “concealed weapon” refers specifically to any weapon carried in a manner intended to prevent it from being seen or detected. The carrying of concealed weapons is prohibited under UK law, with significant penalties for those found in violation. This prohibition is rooted in the broader legislative framework that seeks to prevent violence and ensure public safety.

Rationale Behind the Legislation

The stringent regulation of concealed weapons in the UK is driven by several key considerations:

Public Safety

The foremost rationale for the regulation of concealed weapons is public safety. The government aims to minimise the risk of violence and crime by restricting access to potentially dangerous items. This approach is based on the principle that fewer weapons in public circulation will lead to fewer opportunities for their misuse.

Crime Prevention

Restricting the carrying of concealed weapons is also seen as a crucial measure in preventing crime. Criminals who carry concealed weapons pose a significant threat to law enforcement and the public. By making it illegal to carry such weapons, the law seeks to deter individuals from engaging in criminal activities.

Societal Norms

The legislation reflects broader societal norms and values. The UK has a long-standing tradition of strict gun control and a general aversion to the routine carrying of weapons by civilians. The laws governing concealed weapons are in line with these cultural attitudes, emphasising the importance of maintaining a peaceful and orderly society.

Implications for Individuals

The laws on concealed weapons have significant implications for individuals, both in terms of their rights and responsibilities:

Legal Consequences

Individuals found carrying a concealed weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse face severe legal consequences. These can include imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record, which can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s personal and professional life.


One of the contentious issues surrounding concealed weapon laws is the question of self-defence. While individuals have the right to protect themselves, the UK law imposes strict limits on the means by which they can do so. Carrying a concealed weapon for self-defence is generally not considered a lawful excuse, and individuals are encouraged to rely on other forms of personal protection.

Licensing and Exceptions

There are certain exceptions and circumstances under which individuals may be permitted to carry weapons. For instance, individuals with a valid firearm certificate can carry specific firearms for legitimate purposes, such as hunting or sport shooting. Additionally, certain professionals, such as police officers and security personnel, may be authorised to carry weapons as part of their duties.

Implications for Society

The regulation of concealed weapons also has broader implications for society as a whole:

Crime Rates

The UK has relatively low rates of gun crime compared to countries with more permissive firearm laws. The strict regulation of concealed weapons is often cited as a contributing factor to this outcome. By limiting access to firearms and other weapons, the law helps to reduce the overall incidence of violent crime.

Public Perception

Public perception of safety and security is influenced by the presence of weapons in society. Strict concealed weapon laws contribute to a general sense of safety and order, as individuals are less likely to encounter weapons in their daily lives. This perception is important for maintaining public confidence in the legal system and the government’s ability to protect its citizens.

Law Enforcement

For law enforcement agencies, the regulation of concealed weapons simplifies the task of maintaining public order. Police officers can operate with the assumption that individuals they encounter are unlikely to be armed, reducing the potential for violent confrontations. This, in turn, allows for more effective and less aggressive policing strategies.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite the general consensus on the importance of regulating concealed weapons, there are several challenges and controversies associated with these laws:

Balancing Rights and Safety

One of the primary challenges is balancing individual rights with public safety. Critics argue that overly restrictive laws infringe on personal freedoms and the right to self-defence. Finding the appropriate balance between these competing interests is an ongoing debate.

Enforcement and Compliance

Ensuring compliance with concealed weapon laws is another significant challenge. Despite strict regulations, there are instances of illegal weapon possession and use. Law enforcement agencies must remain vigilant and proactive in identifying and addressing these violations.

Changing Threats

The nature of threats to public safety evolves over time. Advances in technology and changes in criminal behaviour require continuous adaptation of laws and enforcement strategies. For example, the rise of 3D-printed firearms and other novel weaponry poses new challenges for regulators.

Comparative Perspectives

To provide a broader context, it is useful to compare the UK’s approach to concealed weapons with that of other countries.

United States

The United States has a markedly different approach to the regulation of concealed weapons. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms, and many states have relatively permissive laws regarding the carrying of concealed weapons. This has resulted in a significantly higher prevalence of firearms and a correspondingly higher rate of gun violence.


Canada, like the UK, has stringent regulations on the possession and carrying of firearms. While the legal framework is somewhat less restrictive than in the UK, the emphasis is similarly on public safety and the prevention of violence. Canadians must obtain licences to possess firearms, and carrying concealed weapons is heavily regulated.


Australia’s approach to firearm regulation is also comparable to that of the UK. Following a series of high-profile mass shootings, Australia implemented comprehensive gun control measures, including strict restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons. These laws have been credited with reducing gun violence and improving public safety.


The regulation of concealed weapons in the UK is a critical component of the broader legal framework aimed at ensuring public safety and preventing crime. Through a combination of historical evolution, legislative measures, and societal norms, the UK has developed a stringent approach to the control of weapons.

While the laws governing concealed weapons are generally effective in achieving their objectives, they are not without challenges and controversies. Balancing individual rights with public safety, ensuring compliance, and adapting to new threats are ongoing issues that require careful consideration and proactive management.

Comparatively, the UK’s approach aligns with other countries that prioritise public safety through strict gun control measures. This stands in contrast to nations with more permissive laws, highlighting the diversity of approaches to weapon regulation globally.

In summary, the regulation of concealed weapons in the UK reflects a commitment to maintaining a safe and orderly society, underpinned by a robust legal framework that seeks to balance individual freedoms with the collective good. As the landscape of public safety continues to evolve, so too must the laws and strategies that govern the carrying of concealed weapons, ensuring that they remain effective and relevant in a changing world.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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