It's the season to be doubly aware of crime prevention — especially in matters relating to gun security in your car. There's no room for complacency.
Now that the season is fully under way, I think that a timely reminder about gun security in your car would not go amiss. I’m told by my colleague, Detective Chief Superintendent Jo Chilton of the National Ballistic Intelligence Service, that there have been targeted thefts of shotguns in the North West. Certificate holders are responsible people and gun thefts from cars are very rare, but we must not become complacent.
Shotgun certificate holders have a duty of care
Every shotgun certificate carries a statutory condition that imposes a duty on the holder to look after the shotguns to which it relates. It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with a condition on a certificate. The penalties are draconian: up to six months in clink, a fine of up to £5,000 — or both.
Condition 4(b) on your certificate says: “When a shotgun to which this certificate relates is in use or the holder of the certificate has the shotgun 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 shotgun 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 shotgun.”
The most important words in this are “reasonable precautions”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines reasonable as: “Not greatly less or more than might be thought appropriate.”
Advice about leaving guns in cars
Reasonableness is a middle course between two extremes. The Home Office guide has helpful advice about leaving guns in cars: “19.49) Any firearms should be hidden, preferably in the locked boot or other secured load carrying area of the vehicle. The vehicle should not be left unattended for long periods whenever possible. Vehicles which have to be left unattended for any length of time should ideally have an immobiliser and/or alarm fitted. 19.50) If the vehicle is left unattended for any reason, firearms should be concealed, preferably in the locked boot or other secured load carrying area of the vehicle.
“Where practicable, the bolt, magazine or other operating part should be separated from the firearm and either carried on the person or kept in a locked container, ideally secured to the vehicle, or concealed elsewhere. Any ammunition should be stored separately from the firearm and concealed from view. The vehicle should be locked, and any immobiliser or alarm should be set. Where possible, the vehicle should be parked within the sight of the responsible person and in a position that would frustrate attempts to enter the vehicle unlawfully (eg. with the boot close to a wall).”
Diligence not negligence
It is better not to leave a gun unattended but that is a council of perfection. You may need to go to the shops on the way home and most shoots repair to the pub at the end of the day. Ask the landlord if you may bring your gun inside. Most country pubs will be happy with this. Consider securing your gun with a cable and lock, or use a specially designed slip. Be aware that shooting association window stickers may attract a thief.
If you follow this guidance, it would be difficult to mount a prosecution and any revocation would be unjustified. Often the police regard someone who has had a gun stolen from their car as a criminal rather than a victim. By following the guide, you can put Mr Plod on the back foot and give him a hard time for not preventing car crime.
A stolen shotgun is a very serious incident
The police properly view a stolen shotgun as a very serious incident. The prospect of a lethal weapon in the hands of a petty thief is bad enough — the consequences of it ending up in an armed robbery do not bear thinking about. If there has been any negligence or recklessness on your part, your certificate will be revoked and you may be prosecuted as well. The loss of a gun is not just a personal catastrophe, it is also a PR disaster for the sport. It only takes a single theft reported in a local paper to make the public think we are all irresponsible slackers. Don’t let the side down.