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Staying on the right side of firearms law

25 Jul 2017

Farmers and rural landowners can become complacent about the security of firearms and don’t often appreciate the potential consequences.

This area of the law is varied and complex, ranging from offences of illegal possession through to criminal use of a firearm, which can carry significant sentences.

There is one standard application form to be used for both firearm and shotgun certificates. Within the last four statutory conditions of every firearm shotgun certificate are the following security requirements:

  1. The holder must, on receipt of the certificate, sign it in ink with his/her signature;
  2. The holder must within 7 days inform the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted of theft, loss or destruction of the certificate;
  3. Any change in the permanent address of the certificate holder shall be notified without undue delay to the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted;
  4. The firearms and ammunition to which the certificate relates must at all times be stored securely so as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, access to them by ‘unauthorised persons’. (Exceptions apply when they are being cleaned, repaired or tested and for some other connected purpose like hiring/lending, selling or transporting. Here, reasonable precautions must be taken.)

The granting of a certificate is based on trust. The disclosure of police cautions, formal warnings and convictions is therefore vital. As you would expect, convictions for alcohol/drug abuse and violence are not popular with licensing departments. Other conduct will be relevant such as a volatile temper. Police will often consult with an applicant’s GP if they suspect the applicant is suffering from a mental illness or depression.


‘Unauthorised persons’ includes the certificate holder’s spouse, children and visitors to their home. Licence holders, therefore, need to be equally vigilant to safeguard, not only their guns but also the keys to their cabinet. They should at all times either carry their cabinet keys in their possession or store them somewhere that is unknown to anybody else.

The easiest way to lose a licence is if someone close to the holder makes an allegation that is difficult to refute. A volatile relationship with a partner, relative or neighbour can make a holder particularly vulnerable. The holder should also be very careful about followers and friends on social media. Certain comments or opinions could raise police concerns about the holder due to the company he/she appears to keep.

Taking legal advice at an early stage can sometimes avoid a license holder having their certificate revoked or not renewed. For further information, please contact Jonathan Pigford, Partner in the Rural Team at Hay & Kilner on 0191 232 8345 or email: jonathan.pigford@hay-kiilner.co.uk