Reference Section

Firearms Licensing


Shot gun applications

Firearms applications

Explosives applications



Overseas Visitors

Travelling with Firearms

Age Restrictions

Useful Links

Frequently Asked Questions


Buyer Beware
Warning General...Caveat emptor...buyer beware. Buyers are advised to be cautious especially when dealing with people that you do not know or don't have first hand recommendations for. Below are some steps that you may wish to consider taking to help protect yourself. Firearms...When buying or selling a gun the law dictates that the transaction must be face to face. This works in your favour as you can see the gun and the seller before parting with the money. It is wise not to send money before the transaction. When using RFDs to send and receive firearms it is usual to send the money first before doing so. Ask for a copy of the sellers FAC, suitably marked as "copy only", only the front page and firearms possessed pages are necessary. This will ensure that the seller is bona fide as the gun will be on his certificate. It also gives you his details in the event of an issue arising. If the seller is unwilling to send a copy of his FAC then ensure that the gun is with the sending RFD and entered on his register by communicating directly with the sending RFD before releasing the money. Most FAC transactions are genuine as holders have potentially a lot to loose if they fall foul of the law and don't deliver the firearm. Condition and functionality with second hand firearms is another matter altogether so view before you buy and check out the sellers returns policy. Breaking firearms law is a far more serious offence than a trading law breach. Deer Stalking... reliable word of mouth recommendation from someone you know has undertaken such stalking being offered by a specific syndicate is best. Like other walks of life, stalking has its scammers. E.G., make sure there is deer, of the species sought, on the land being made available; that appropriate insurance is in place; that there is recourse for recompense if it all goes wrong. In addition, obtain and understand terms and conditions; consider the implications of allowing a syndicate leader to be a FAC mentor; make sure ‘coaches’ are suitably qualified; consider the quality of deer management, the construction & execution of a shooting plan and safety; determine if the land is over-shot. If in doubt, contact BASC or similar.
Young People

The use of airguns by young people is heavily regulated...

• It is an offence for anyone to fire an air pellet beyond the premises where they have permission to shoot.

• Young people under 14 may not use an airgun unless they are supervised by someone over 21.

• Young people between 14 -17 years of age may not buy or hire an airgun or ammunition or receive one as a gift. A person within this age group may not carry an airgun in a public place at any time unless supervised by a person of or over 21 years and then only with a good reason for doing so.

• Nobody under 18 years may buy an airgun or its ammunition.]

New legislation has been introduced by the Government which will make it an offence to fail to properly secure airguns in order to prevent them falling into the hands of children.  From 10th February 2011, owners will be liable for a fine of up to £1,000 if they do not take reasonable precautions to stop unauthorised access to their airgun by people under 18. This change in law is applicable to airgun owners in England, Wales and Scotland.

Young people and Shotgun Certificates…


Note: The law has recently changed due to “The Firearms (Amendment) Regulations 2010” – this document has been amended to incorporate the age changes given by the regulations.


The Firearms Act 1968, imposes no minimum age for the grant of a Shotgun certificate. The Act has been amended on several occasions since it became law and without change to this provision.

Section 28. A Chief Officer shall grant a shotgun certificate unless;

- The applicant is a prohibited person (someone who has served a significant custodial sentence); or

- The Chief Officer has reason to believe that he cannot be permitted to possess a shot gun without danger to the public safety or to the peace; or

- The Chief Officer believes that the applicant has no good reason for possessing a shotgun). Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, Section 3. (The burden falls on the police to demonstrate that the applicant has no good reason rather than vice versa.

Even if a young person is granted a shotgun certificate he is not allowed to use a shotgun without the supervision of an adult (>21 years) until he is 15. This deals with any objections which might be based on concerns over the age of criminal responsibility.

NEW - A young person cannot buy or hire a shotgun or ammunition until he is 18.


Settled law requires that a Chief Officer must consider each case on its merits and from the standpoint of the applicant rather than from that of an objector. (Anderson – v Neilans (1940), Joy – v – Chief Constable Dumfries and Galloway (1966). Chief Officers are not allowed to have blanket policies. Any policy must not be punitive and must always admit of exceptions if it is to be lawful. R – v Wakefield Crown Court, ex parte Oldfield 1977.

In considering an application, Chief Officers should apply the following criteria

- Is the young person of adequate stature to use a shotgun safely?

- Does he understand the basic rules of safe gun handling and can he demonstrate them?

- Will he receive proper support and training from his immediate social circle?

If the answer to all of these questions is YES then the grant of a certificate to a young person poses no danger to public safety or to the peace


“It is in the interests of safety that a young person who is to handle firearms should be

properly taught at a relatively early age.” Home Office Guidance to the Police. Section 7.7


“We do not consider that the appellant’s age is either directly or indirectly something likely to

give rise to the safety of the public or to the peace” (per Garland J and Justices in Peter Burge - v - Chief Constable of Norfolk, December 1994).


“As with many other issues, we believe that this is one on which parents should decide the age at which their children should take part in shooting sports.” Charles Clark MP in the government’s reply to the Home Affairs Committee Report “Controls over Firearms”. Cm 4864 October 2000 (The then Home Secretary rejected the Committee’s proposal that there should be a minimum age for handling any firearm, set at 12 or 14 years).


Young people need shotgun certificates because the principal exemption for non certificate holders is complicated and outdated. Section 11(5) Firearms Act 1968. “A person may, without holding a shot gun certificate, borrow a shot gun from the occupier of private premises and use it on those premises in the occupier’s presence”. There is no legal definition of “occupier”. Occupation of land must be broad in nature and enforceable at law. Normally taken to mean the holder of a formal lease. Probably does not apply to those with verbal permission to shoot on land. This exemption discriminates against young people from urban areas.

As the law is unclear, BASC advises young people to obtain a certificate so that they do not stand into danger by inadvertently falling outside of the provisions of the exemption.

Unless all of the tests in the 11(5) exemption are satisfied both parties commit an offence. There are no legal authorities to assist with the interpretation for this sub-section.

NEW - This exemption now requires the lender to be aged 18 or over whenever the borrower is under the age of 18 years. This does not affect the ability for a certificate holder of 15 or older (but under 18 years) to lend a shotgun to non certificate holders of any age. In these circumstances the lender must always be the occupier


What explosives may be stored without registering premises?


One or more of the following:

a. 10kg black powder; and b. No more than 5kgs of one of the following options - i. shooters’ powder (black or nitro - powders) ii. any explosive or combination of explosives listed in Schedule 1 of COER 1991. (See Annex A) iii. a combination of shooters powder and any one or more of the explosives listed in schedule 1 of COER 1991. (See Annex A) and also c. 15kg net explosive content or one or other of thefollowing, or a combination of them – i. small arms ammunition ii. primers for use in small arms ammunition or percussion caps or;

NB: whichever of the options in ‘c’ above you may select, the total explosive contents of the items must only ever add up to 15 kg. As a rule of thumb, .6 grain is usually used as the explosive content of primers and caps. If you are in doubt about the amount in particular primers, the manufacturer’s data sheets or your supplier should have the information.


A Guide to the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations (MSER) 2005 & associated on BASC website for download.

Or try this...

Firearm Security

Security of both Firearms and Shotguns is dealt with in Sections 3 and 4 of the Firearms Rules 1998.

Firearm Certificates

Condition 4 (a)

“The firearms and ammunition to which the certificate relates must at all times (except in the circumstances set out in paragraph (B) below) be stored securely so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to the firearms or ammunition by an unauthorised person; ”

Condition 4 (B)

“Where a firearm or ammunition to which the certificate relates is in use or the holder of the certificate has the firearm with him for the purpose of cleaning, repairing or testing it or for some other purpose connected with its use, transfer or sale, or the firearm or ammunition is in transit to or from a place in connection with its use or any such purpose, reasonable precautions must be taken for the safe custody of the firearm or the ammunition.”


Shotgun Certificates

Condition 4 (a) The wording is exactly as for Firearms, except… access to the guns by an unauthorised person

Condition 4 (B) The wording is exactly as for firearms BUT for “firearm” read “shotgun“ and note that the condition does NOT include ammunition.





Additional advice can be found in the Home Office Security Handbook 2005 available here:

Safe-keeping of keys (2005 Handbook)

2.59 Only authorised persons should have access to any of the keys for any cabinet etc containing firearms and section 1 ammunition. Care needs to be taken in selecting locations for the storage of keys, particularly any spare sets, to avoid them being discovered and improperly used.


6.37 Security arrangements should include a system for ensuring the safe custody of keys, both to display cabinets and the building. As a rule only keys sufficient to enter should be taken from the premises.

6.38 Internal keys need to be in a key safe or cabinet that is out of general view and in a secure area.

6.39 Keys are to be only issued to authorised persons and never to contractors or outside agencies.

Home Office Security Handbook 2005



2.1 The security of firearms, section 1 ammunition and shotguns within a dwelling can in most cases be achieved using a cabinet designed for this purpose. New cabinets should conform to the requirements of BS7558 (see Annex C for examples on points of construction). The cabinet should be fixed to the structure and located to frustrate attack or identification by persons visiting the premises. BS7558 was introduced in 1992 but many older cabinets will be built to perfectly satisfactory standards and, if satisfactory, need not be replaced.

2.2 As an additional level of security, ammunition and easily removable component parts – such as rifle bolts etc - may be stored separately from the firearms they fit. This could be either by use of a detached storage container fitted elsewhere in the dwelling, or one built into or onto the firearms cabinet.

2.3 Whatever the method of security, it should also involve the physical prevention of access to those firearms by persons who might lawfully occupy the property other than the certificate holder, as well as by intruders. This may be especially important when children are in the premises.

2.4 Security should not be located so inaccessibly as to deter the certificate holder from securing his or her guns after use.

2.5 Under most circumstances, it is preferable that firearms should be secured within the occupied part of the structure. Separate, detached buildings, or those attached but having only external access (eg outhouses, garages etc) should not be used unless the levels of security warrant it. If used, these could also be protected by an intruder alarm linked to the household.

2.6 In some modern houses, thermal block is used for the inner skin of main walls. This does not provide as substantial an anchorage point for security devices as those that can divide integral garages from living areas, for example. (Integral garages mean those built within the dwelling and providi g internal door(s) to the other living areas). Whilst not usually a suitable location, if a garage is secured to the level of recommendations set out in paragraphs 2.36 to 2.46 of this Handbook then this option should be considered. It should, however, be considered as an option only after reviewing all other locations within the inhabited part of the premises.

2.7 If the certificate holder’s dwelling is a mobile home or static caravan, a different set of security concepts should be adopted (see paragraphs 2.25 to 2.35). These are primarily concerned with the anchorage of the structure. That structure's capability to store items securely may well require an interim layer of security to 'target harden' the unit. It is unlikely that a gunroom can satisfactorily be constructed within such a dwelling or unit of this type.

2.8 There is a need to consider other alternatives for unusual firearms such as puntguns, cannon etc. In these cases, such items may be secured in buildings other than the dwelling. Suitable securing points may be required where the situation or construction of such buildings make it necessary. Where possible any removable part that would render the gun inactive should be stored separately.

2.9 When advising on the location of any security cabinet, remember that most steel gun cabinets have a high weight-to-footprint ratio. The average floor loading for a suspended floor on timber joists is 56lbs per square foot. A 9-gun cabinet with a 24" x 12" (608 x 304mm) footprint can be in the order of 126 lbs, which equates to more than a safe average suspended floor fixing location than joist runs. In a loft installation for a cabinet, care needs to be exercised. Not all lofts have joists calculated to include weight loading other than that of the ceiling below. It is not uncommon for joists in lofts to be 40% smaller in cross sections than joists carrying floors. Full use must therefore be made of the support from structural walls carrying such joists. If there is any doubt, the applicant/certificate holder should obtain proper structural advice.

2.10 Fixings for security devices form an important part of the overall resistance to attack. Fastening to timber studded walls should be avoided, unless some additional anchorage can be provided. Floor or roof joists (subject to the previous comments) are acceptable. Walls of brick, concrete or masonry are usually the best bonding materials. It is important that the fixing chosen is correct for that material (eg expanding bolts, chemical anchors, toggle bolts etc). With modern building materials, particularly breeze and thermal block walls, the materials are not particularly suited to normal fixing devices. Any firearm security cabinet etc should be sited out of view from people both inside and outside the building. Securing to suitable building walls within built-in furnishings, eg wardrobes, cupboards, etc can prove effective. Rooms such as lofts and cellars for example, that are unlikely to be visited by casual visitors, are options. However, when recommending such places, it is important to consider whether the environment is suitable. Extremes in temperature, dampness, condensation etc may militate against such use, as not only could it result in damage to the firearms and ammunition but particularly in damp areas, it may cause erosion of the fixings or the cabinet material, thus reducing its security.

2.11 When security devices are being fitted, consideration should be given to varying the method of fixing. For example, in buildings with only partition internal walls and modern insulation block lining or random stone walls, it can be perfectly acceptable to fix cabinets horizontally, as long as appropriate fixing devices are used. This will also assist when fastening into suspended wooden flooring, as it spreads the load more evenly. In this case, coach screws of at least 3/8" (8mm) diameter and not less than 2.5" (63mm) long will provide a suitable anchorage. Such fixings must of course be made into joists and not simply to the floor boarding. Another consideration should be the size and weight of the larger form of gun cabinet or commercial safe. Due to their very weight or size, fixing may be unnecessary in these cases, but they should be located in such a position that would further frustrate removal.

Home Office Guidance to the Police 2002 Document...

"Knowledge by an unauthorised person of the location of the keys or to the combination to the locks may lead to a breach of the statutory security condition. In the case of Regina v Chelmsford Crown Court, Ex parte Farrer (2000) it was agreed that deliberately providing information of the whereabouts of the keys was an offence. It was “reasonably practicable” for Mr Farrer not to tell his mother where the keys were kept in this case."

Also, BASC has criticised South Yorkshire Police for sending a letter to certificate holders in the county advising them to leave their gun cabinet keys with a friend if they are going away on holiday.

The Structure of Firearms Licensing
57. The regime introduced under the Firearms Act 1968 established four basic tiers of firearms control, which are listed here in descending order of severity:
    (a)  "section 5 controls": weapons prohibited for private possession (for example, handguns and automatic weapons), unless held under the express authority of the Secretary of State;
    (b)  "section 1 controls": the default level of control for firearms not otherwise provided for in legislation (in practice, the provision covering most categories of firearm in general use, e.g. rifles and high-powered air weapons, together with certain types of multi-shot shotgun);
    (c)  "section 2 controls": controls on specific types of shotgun (long-barrelled shotguns with no magazine or a non-detachable magazine capable of holding no more than two cartridges);[
    (d)  controls over low-powered air weapons exempted from the licensing regime under the Dangerous Air Weapons Rules 1969.
58. While the successive amendments made to the Firearms Act 1968[116] have altered the classification of various types of firearm, the basic regime of controls remains as then established. However, the accretions to the system have served to increase its complexity. There are separate licensing and certification regimes for shotguns and for other types of permitted firearm: different criteria of fitness are applicable, and different procedures have to be followed. In addition, air weapons below a certain power level are exempt from all licensing and certification requirements, although their use is still governed by some statutory restrictions. 59. Witnesses from shooting organisations and the police both called for the present law on firearms to be rationalised and simplified. Police forces would like the present regime to be easier to administer: firearms users would like the law to be simpler to understand.[117] 60. We believe that the present control structure ought to be simplified, in the interests of firearms users and firearms licensing bodies alike. As we have stated above, consideration of the lethal potential of any firearm ought to be the starting-point for a system of firearms control. Such a system ought also to be as simple as possible to understand, and should be seen to be fairly and consistently administered. It should not, however, place any undue restriction on the responsible sportsman or occupational firearms user. We analyse the main features of the present structure below. "SECTION 1 CONTROLS": THE FIREARM CERTIFICATE 61. Section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968 created what the Home Office has termed "a 'default' category for those firearms not otherwise mentioned in legislation".[118] Those firearms considered particularly dangerous are subject to the controls laid out in section 5 of the 1968 Act—their possession and use is prohibited save by express authority of the Secretary of State. For instance, the Firearms (Amendment) Acts 1997 subjected virtually all handguns to section 5 controls. On the other hand, firearms considered less dangerous—such as shotguns and low-powered air weapons—are subject to lighter controls.
62. The conditions on the grant of the firearm certificate are considered to be fairly stringent: indeed, some witnesses from shooting organisations considered them over-restrictive and hoped that they might in due course be loosened.[119] The firearm certificate grants authority to possess certain specified section 1 firearms: the authority must be periodically renewed (presently once every five years). For the certificate to be granted the issuing chief constable has to be satisfied in three respects:
    (a)  that the applicant is fit to be entrusted with a firearm, and is not a person prohibited from possessing a section 1 firearm;
    (b)  that the applicant has good reason for possessing, purchasing or acquiring the specific firearm and ammunition for which the application is made;
    (c)  that the applicant can be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition in his possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace.[
The certificate specifies each weapon which the applicant is entitled to purchase or possess, and further conditions on the holding of any firearm (such as a specification of the land on which the firearm is to be used, or conditions under which the firearm may be stored) may be added at the issuing force's discretion. The authority of a firearm certificate is also required for the purchase or possession of component parts of firearms and for ammunition. The conditions of the certificate—such as the number or type of firearms, or specific conditions of use—may be varied on application and on payment of a fee.[121] 63. The grounds for revocation or partial revocation of a firearm certificate are satisfied if the chief constable has reason to believe either:
    (a)  that the certificate holder "is of intemperate habits or unsound mind or otherwise unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm"; or
    (b)  that the certificate holder can no longer be permitted to hold the firearms or ammunition to which the certificate relates without danger to public safety or the peace; or
    (c)  that the certificate holder is prohibited from possessing a firearm;
    (d)  that the certificate holder no longer has good reason to possess the firearm or ammunition.[
64. In our view, the range of firearms which the firearm certificate covers makes it essential that these controls are applied: a responsible chief constable must be able to satisfy himself that a firearm is being used for the purpose for which it is intended. For instance, certain calibres of rifle are considered too powerful for the despatch of vermin, while certain categories are considered inadequate for this task (for instance, if they are judged to be insufficiently accurate or well-sighted to effect a clean kill). We believe that the controls applied to section 1 firearms are stringent, and, if fairly and consistently applied, they make adequate and justifiable provision for their safe use. "SECTION 2 CONTROLS": THE SHOTGUN CERTIFICATE 65. The conditions applied for the grant of a shotgun certificate are less stringent than those for the grant of a firearm certificate. The applicant for a certificate is required to state, rather than to demonstrate, the reason for which the certificate is required. Although he is required to notify the police upon the acquisition of further shotguns, he is not obliged to obtain permission: any number of shotguns may be held on a single certificate. The certificate covers only the shotgun: shotgun components and ammunition may be held without certificate. Chief constables do not have the power to specify the conditions under which the shotgun may be used. In order for the certificate to be granted the chief constable must satisfy himself that the following conditions are met: (a)  that the applicant can possess a shotgun without danger to the public safety or to the peace;
    (b)  that the chief constable has no reason to believe that the applicant is prohibited from possessing a shotgun;
(c)  that the chief constable does not believe that the applicant does not have a good reason for possessing, purchasing or acquiring a shotgun.[123
The Act specifies particular good reasons for possession of a shotgun: if these are stated, the chief constable is bound to grant a certificate if all other conditions are satisfied. They are:
  • use for sporting or for competition purposes;
  • use for shooting vermin.[124]
It is for the chief constable to demonstrate that the applicant has no good reason. In addition, the chief constable may not refuse a shotgun certificate application or renewal merely because he has reason to believe that the applicant has not used, or will not use, the shotgun or shotguns in question. 66. The grounds on which a shotgun certificate may be revoked are different from those for the revocation of a firearm certificate. The grounds for revocation of a shotgun certificate are satisfied if the chief constable is satisfied either
    (a)  that the certificate holder is prohibited from possessing a shotgun; or
    (b)  that the certificate holder cannot be permitted to possess a shotgun without danger to public safety or the peace.[
  67. These conditions differ substantially from those imposed on section 1 firearms. They do not impose any territorial restrictions on where the shotgun owner may shoot, and they allow several shotguns to be held on a single certificate. There are considerably more shotgun certificates than firearm certificates on issue. At 31 December 1998, the latest date for which figures are available, 627,600 shotgun certificates were on issue, covering 1,343,400 weapons; at the same date there were 131,900 firearm certificates on issue, authorising the possession of 295,100 weapons.[126]
68. While the essential test of public safety remains the same under both regimes, we note that the principal differences between the regimes are:
    . To grant a firearm certificate, the chief constable must be satisfied that an applicant is fit to be entrusted with a firearm: if he has reason to believe that a holder has become "unfitted" to be entrusted with a firearm, the certificate may be revoked. No such test applies to a shotgun certificate applicant.
Good reason
    . The chief constable must be satisfied that an applicant for a firearm certificate has good reason for having a firearm and ammunition, and may revoke it if he no longer has reason to believe that the holder has good reason. He may only refuse an application for a shotgun certificate if he is satisfied that the applicant has no good reason for possessing a shotgun (ammunition is not taken into consideration). He cannot subsequently revoke a shotgun certificate if there is no longer a good reason for possession. In short, the onus is on an applicant for a firearm certificate to demonstrate a good reason, while the onus is on the police to demonstrate that an applicant for a shotgun certificate has no good reason.
Frequency of use
    (subsidiary to good reason). The chief constable may refuse a firearm certificate because he has reason to believe the firearm will not be used, or has not been used regularly enough to demonstrate good reason; frequency of use is no ground for refusing or revoking a shotgun certificate.
Shotguns in urban areas 69. Many witnesses drew attention to the comments of Chris Mullin MP during the Second Reading of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill in November 1996: "Everyone understands that farmers need shotguns to deal with pests. It is more difficult to understand why someone living on a housing estate in the middle of Sunderland needs a shotgun in his home. I favour a big reduction in the number of shotgun licences, starting with those in urban areas".[127
The use of shotguns in rural areas is well understood, for example for the control of vermin: the Home Office also pointed out the extra revenue which farmers may gain from leasing shooting rights over their land, and the environmental benefits of husbanding land for the keeping of game.[128] Shotguns are also extensively used in clay pigeon shooting.[129] The reasons for an urban resident to keep a shotgun are less well understood. The potential concerns appear substantial: a shotgun owner in an urban area can amass as many shotguns as a country dweller, and has to show no good reason for doing so. 70. Strong representations were made to us by individuals who live in urban areas and who use shotguns either occupationally or for recreational purposes. To prevent urban residents from owning shotguns principally by reason of the location of their dwelling would be a difficult measure to enforce in statute: the Home Office pointed out that "urban areas" were not defined in law.[130] ACPO stated that a prohibition on the ownership of shotguns in urban areas would be "extremely difficult, if not impossible, to police": it did not believe that any particular problem was posed by urban-based certificate holders travelling into the country to shoot.[131] Similarly, the Scottish police associations believed "there may be little or no benefit in restricting storage of shotguns in urban areas as these certificate holders travel outwith cities and towns to participate in the sport".[132] The British Shooting Sports Council believed that any attempt to restrict the issue of a certificate on the grounds of place of residence would be "an untenable invasion of personal rights".[133] 71. Moreover, the Home Office told us that it was not aware of particular problems of shotgun abuse in urban areas as distinct from rural areas. They said that the rates of shotgun theft in urban areas were not overall "substantially higher".[134] Some Home Office figures appeared to show evidence of a correlation between numbers of legally held shotguns and the theft of shotguns. However, these figures, collated by police force area for 1997/98, provide too small a sample to be reliable.[135] Lord Kimball, a past Chairman of the Firearms Consultative Committee, told us that "the misuse of shotguns can best be curtailed by improved security by those who hold legal weapons. Secure storage at all times is part of the conditions on all certificates".[136] The possession of shotguns in urban areas does not appear to pose a particular problem, and we accept that urban dwellers should be as able as rural dwellers to hold a shotgun certificate. However, we believe that it is vital that weapons are kept securely, whatever their location. Chief constables of all force areas should be able to satisfy themselves that the shotguns licensed under their authority are being securely kept, especially where they believe there is an increased risk of theft. LOW-POWERED AIR WEAPONS 72. Low-powered air weapons—those with power levels above 1 ft/lb, but below 12 ft/lb (for air rifles) and 6 ft/lb (for air pistols)—are not included within the licensing and certification regime.[137] Controls over these weapons consist of a number of statutory prohibitions on the place where one can carry or use such a weapon: these were set out for us in a Home Office memorandum.[138] No reliable figures exist for the numbers of such weapons in private hands, though police forces have taken four million to be a realistic estimate.[139] 73. We have already made clear our preference for a system of firearms control which is consistent, simple to understand and easy to administer. We have also stressed that such a system should be based on the lethal potential of a firearm, rather than its mechanism. We discuss the problems stemming from the misuse of air weapons, and further controls which might be placed on their use, at greater length below. PROPOSALS FOR REFORM 74. The weight of representations made to us on the subject of the separate licensing regimes for shotguns and for section 1 firearms has been considerable. The Firearms Act 1968 established in a single piece of legislation the system of separate treatment for shotguns and for other permitted firearms. The Home Office briefly outlined the history of these developments: the failure of the Firearms Act 1920 to cover sporting shotguns, the development of a separate system of shotgun licensing in the 1960s to counter armed crime, the consolidation of these measures into the Firearms Act 1968, and the restrictions to the shotgun control regime made by the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988. 75. The police associations and the Gun Control Network were strong advocates of the abolition of the separate shotgun licence and the extension of section 1 controls to all shotguns. Police concerns about the dual licensing system centred upon the administrative inconvenience of dealing with two separate licensing regimes; the significantly lighter controls which are placed upon shotgun ownership; and the burden placed on the police to demonstrate that a shotgun certificate holder was a danger to public safety and the peace. A holder of both forms of licence, whom a chief constable deemed to be unfit to possess firearms, could have both certificates revoked: however, it was demonstrated to us that an appeal against both revocations could result in the appeal against the shotgun certificate being allowed, while at the same time the revocation of the firearm certificate might be upheld. Mr Greenwood could not think of one case where this had happened, but we were provided with a recent example.[140] The Home Office set out the arguments for and against the extension of section 1 controls to cover shotguns: making the case for a single certificate, it noted that shotguns are just as lethal at close range as other firearms, a point also made by the Police Federation, and that it was logical to subject them to the same levels of control as other firearms.[141] 76. Representatives of shooting organisations, and a great many individual shooters who made submissions, believed that the present regime of controls over shotguns was entirely adequate for the purpose. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation argued that the small number of annual refusals to grant shotgun certificates (on average less than one per cent annually) indicated that unsuitable people were deterred from making applications.[142] The Home Office noted that the use of shotguns in crime had halved between 1987 and 1997, while the total number of firearms offences had increased by one-third over the same period and the use of handguns in crime had increased by 75 %.[143] The numbers of shotguns misappropriated also dropped between 1987 and 1997, in part, the Government believes, because of the requirement for the safe storage of shotguns introduced by the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.[144] All this may indicate that, while it is still used in some criminal offences, the shotgun does not have the attraction it once did for the armed criminal who now chooses to use different weapons. 77. Shotgun owners were keen not to be subjected to section 1 licensing controls for a number of reasons. It was argued that the present level of controls over shotguns better reflected the different requirements of the shotgun owner.[145] The "good reason" requirement which is applied to the grant of a firearm certificate would, it was argued, be an over-restrictive condition to apply to owners of shotguns, many of whom possessed several shotguns for a variety of specific reasons, either sporting or occupational.[146] Many firearms certificates for particular weapons are granted only after an inspection and a specification of the land over which they are to be fired: it was argued that to apply this requirement to shotgun owners would be unreasonable and damaging.[147] 78. We understand the difficulties which would arise if farmers and sportsmen had territorial conditions placed on their use of shotguns. However, we also believe that the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, and its promised right-to-roam provisions, will have considerable implications for the use of shotguns in the countryside.[148] The Minister indicated that in principle he did not find it unreasonable "that a shotgun can only be used in certain areas", and that he did not rule out the possibility of regulating where a shotgun should be used.[149] 79. Some witnesses believed that the tests and conditions associated with the shotgun certificate were sufficient and appropriate for the licensing of all firearms. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation thought that, in making an overall assessment of the suitability of the individual to own firearms of a particular class, the shotgun certificate represented "the best model of licensing practice".[150] The British Shooting Sports Council, which believes the present controls over shotguns are sufficient, pointed out that to subject all shotgun certificate holders to section 1 controls would create a serious additional workload for the police without contributing to public safety.[151] The Scottish Countryside Alliance, among others, went further in recommending that firearms and shotguns be held on a single certificate to which the conditions of the present shotgun certificate alone would apply.[152] 80. The Secretary of State asked the Firearms Consultative Committee to look at the issue of a single firearm certificate in the course of its work programme for 1998-99. The FCC considered two possible approaches: the inclusion of section 2 shotguns within the section 1 firearm regime, and the creation of a new single certificate for shotguns and firearms, without all the restrictions presently imposed on section 1 firearms. It noted that a number of firearms presently under section 1 controls, such as rifles, muzzle-loading pistols and revolvers, and long-barrelled repeating shotguns, "had no significant track record of misuse", implying that controls on them might be relaxed. It also noted the possible damage which further restrictions on shotguns might cause for those working in the countryside and to the rural economy in general.[153] The FCC was unable to reach a conclusion on the issue during 1998-99, but hoped to be able to return to it during the course of this year. 81. The present system is complex and unwieldy. We are concerned both by the comparatively light levels of control over the possession of shotguns and with the apparently anomalous distinction between the reasons for the grant, renewal or revocation of a firearm and a shotgun certificate, when both classes of weapon may be lethal in the wrong hands. 82. The overall complexity of the present licensing system in part reflects the development of different patterns of usage of particular types of firearm. In considering the levels of control which are presently exercised over the possession of shotguns and other firearms, we looked at the separate components of the licensing system: the licensing of the person and the licensing of the firearm. This has enabled us to make a better assessment of any specific deficiencies in the system which is at present in force. LICENSING THE PERSON 83. A number of witnesses believed that the present licensing system concentrated too much on the firearm and not enough on the person, arguing that an individual who was judged fit to possess firearms could reasonably be trusted with any class of firearm. We note that, following Lord Cullen's recommendations, the Government has adopted measures "to ensure that the licensing system identifies the suitability of the person to hold firearms, rather than the firearms themselves".[154] The Firearms Rules 1998[155] include a requirement for an applicant for a firearm certificate to provide two character referees, who may not be police officers, police employees, or firearms dealers. Each referee must complete a confidential questionnaire and state that they know no reason why the applicant should not be permitted to possess a firearm. The applicant for a certificate is also required to give details of a general practitioner and to allow the police to seek factual details of the applicant's medical history, if there is any doubt over the applicant's physical or mental health which might affect fitness to hold firearms. 84. The rules relating to countersignatories of shotgun certificates have not, however, been changed: applicants for a shotgun certificate are required to provide a signed statement by "a member of Parliament, justice of the peace, minister of religion, doctor, lawyer, established civil servant, bank officer or person of similar standing" that he knows of no reason why the applicant should not possess a firearm. Countersignatories are not required to complete a questionnaire. We welcome the Government's moves towards a licensing system which concentrates on identifying the suitability of a person to hold firearms. We note, however, that the requirement to provide two detailed character references has not yet been extended to the shotgun licensing system. We recommend that the system of countersignatures on applications for shotgun certificates be replaced by a requirement to provide two character references. 85. The responsibility for the safe and appropriate use and storage of a firearm rests with the certificate holder, and we believe that the principal duty of a chief constable, when issuing a certificate, is to satisfy himself that the certificate holder is a fit person to possess firearms. To fulfil this duty it is possible that more rigorous criteria may have to be applied. At present a test of fitness is not applied to the grant of a shotgun certificate. We believe that it should be. We have received no evidence to indicate that this condition would have a particularly adverse impact on present holders of shotgun certificates. The test of fitness is, we believe, the most appropriate both to ensure public safety and to address the suitability of the individual.[156] We believe that the criteria for assessing of the fitness of an individual to possess any licensed firearm should be identical, regardless of the class of firearm concerned. This test of fitness ought to be the one which presently applies to the possession of section 1 firearms, i.e. (a)  that an individual is fit to be entrusted with a firearm, and is not a person prohibited from possessing a section 1 firearm;(b)  that an individual can be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition in his possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace. We neither believe nor intend that this should have any adverse impact on responsible firearm and shotgun users who presently hold shotgun certificates. 86. Similarly, the criteria for revocation of firearm and shotgun certificates are inconsistent. Concentrating again on the test of fitness, we believe that this ought also to be made grounds for revocation of a shotgun certificate. We believe that the law should be amended to give a chief constable the power (subject to appeal to the court, as at present) to revoke a shotgun certificate if he believes the certificate holder is "is of intemperate habits or unsound mind or otherwise unfitted to be entrusted" with a shotgun. LICENSING THE FIREARM 87. Some witnesses who argued for the shift towards a licensing system based on individual fitness also believed that the present controls on the weapons themselves ought to be dropped as a result: the Sportsman's Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland believed that if an adequate fitness test were established, "counting cartridges and guns" would be unnecessary.[157] The National Farmers Union believed that "current procedures, which appear irrelevant to the matter of public safety, merely impose an unacceptably high level of bureaucracy on farmers".[158] However, we are not persuaded of this approach. At the very least, notification to the police of acquisitions and transfers of weapons ought to be mandatory: a system of firearms control cannot function adequately if no accurate assessment can be made of the quantities of weapons in private hands. We therefore believe that the present levels of control should be maintained. We recommend that the notification to the licensing authority by the licensee of all purchases, sales and transfers of weapons covered by a firearm or a shotgun certificate ought to remain mandatory. 88. While we have set out above our contention that the balance of the licensing system ought to be moved further towards an assessment of the fitness of the individual, we believe that an oversight should be maintained over the weapons which that individual is authorised to possess. Some organisations have indicated that certain classes of section 1 firearm are rarely used in crime, and might usefully have their section 1 restrictions relaxed. This contention, however, ignores an important aspect of section 1 controls, which we support, namely the need of the licensing officer to ensure that a firearm is adequate for the task for which it is intended. 89. Taking into account the need to protect public safety, Mr Clarke indicated that he was seriously considering police proposals that a shotgun certificate holder ought to be obliged to show "good reason" for possessing a shotgun, rather than requiring a chief constable to demonstrate the opposite. He acknowledged that the "good reason" could be defined in a manner to allow the present range of lawful shotgun-related pursuits to proceed:
    "it would be necessary to define that good reason in a way that was widened generally in character so that people could pursue legitimate activity in a perfectly reasonable way".[
90. We recommend that applicants for shotgun licences should be required to show that they have a good reason to possess shotguns. We do not expect that this will impose a great burden on genuine and responsible occupational and recreational shotgun users: nor do we believe that it should. 91. Mr Clarke also believed that there might be a case for the licensing of individual shotguns, rather than the present right to hold an unrestricted number of shotguns on a shotgun licence. This would allow the police to restrict any "unwarranted proliferation" of shotguns in private hands. However, this is a proposal which shooting organisations have strongly resisted. We accept the need for some shotgun owners to have several shotguns for different types of shooting, and we therefore feel that to require licences for every gun might be over-restrictive. However, we also recognise the potential threat to public safety from large collections of shotguns if those collections are not sufficiently well safeguarded. 92. We have referred above (at paragraph 78) to the territorial conditions which can be applied to section 1 firearms. When licensing individual section 1 firearms, the police presently have the power to inspect and to specify the land over which a particular firearm is to be used. This appears to be a sensible arrangement to apply to high-powered firearms which can be lethal at long distances. It is not necessarily a sensible condition to apply to the type of shotgun which may be held on a shotgun certificate: such shotguns are not lethal at long distances. We believe that to impose specific territorial conditions on the use of shotguns will place an unreasonable burden on their occupational and sporting use. We do not believe that such conditions should be applied to the licensing of shotguns. 93. We do not believe that the licensing (as opposed to the registration) of individual shotguns is in principle desirable. Nor do we think that a statutory upper limit ought to be placed on the number of shotguns which may be held on one certificate. Equally, we do not see why a shotgun owner should be able to amass large numbers of shotguns with no effective supervision. We recommend that a shotgun owner should be required to state at the time of grant or renewal of his certificate the maximum number of firearms he wishes to hold over the period of the certificate's validity. This number may be more than the number of shotguns he holds at the time of application. However, the chief constable must be satisfied that the applicant has good reason to possess the stated number of shotguns, and is able to meet the security conditions for their safe storage. The number of shotguns specified on the certificate should be variable upon application. A REFORMED LICENSING STRUCTURE 94. The reforms to the present licensing system which we have recommended will create a new single standard for the licensing of persons to possess firearms. We believe that this is necessary in the interests of public safety and of consistency across the licensing system. Where the licensing of particular firearms is concerned, although we believe that public safety requires some oversight of the number of shotguns one individual may possess on a single certificate, we recognise that it would be over-restrictive to subject shotguns to the same overall level of control as section 1 firearms. 95. Both the Government and the Firearms Consultative Committee have acknowledged that this is a complex area, and we hope that they will re-examine it in the light of our recommendations. We hope that it will be possible to find an acceptable balance between the need to safeguard the public and the right of the individual to participate in legitimate shooting activities.
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