Here's a guide to what you have to do to stay within the law when you move writes Bill Harriman

A shooting friend of mine has just moved house and she wondered how best to inform the police about it. Moving house is a traumatic experience. To ensure you have one less thing to worry about, here is a guide to what you have to do to stay within the law when you move.

Condition 3 on every firearm and shotgun certificate says: “The holder of this certificate must, without undue delay, inform the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted of any change in his permanent address.” Remember that it is a criminal offence not to abide by any condition on a firearm or shotgun certificate.

The move has to be permanent

There are two things that need to be considered here. What does “without undue delay” actually mean? There is no set time period for notification, but the time from move to notification must not be excessive. A practical interpretation of when you should give notice of a change of address would be when you are finally settled in your new home with your boxes unpacked and your gun cabinet installed.

The other aspect of the condition is that the move has to be permanent. This means that you really have upped sticks and that you will be registered to vote and pay community tax and so on at your new address. A short-term move into rented accommodation while you have building work done is not a permanent move. Neither is a student who is away from the family home at college or someone who works away and only returns home on an intermittent basis.

Use recorded delivery for your firearms certificate

The notification must be sent to the police force that issued your certificate (you should not send that in as well). It makes sense to send it by recorded delivery and to keep a copy of the Royal Mail slip with a copy of the letter. You could also email it to the address on the police force website and ask for a read-receipt. This makes you bomb-proof if you are ever accused of not notifying a change of address (police forces are big organisations — sometimes things go missing). When you move from one police area to another, your file will be sent to the licensing department that covers your new address. It is likely that you will have a visit from an enquiry officer to check your security and to reconcile your firearms against those entered on to your certificate(s). If someone turns up without an appointment — which is both discourteous and bad practice — you do not have to let him into your house if it is not convenient to you. After all, you are the customer.

If you are asked to give up your old certificate pending the issue of a new one, you should politely decline

You will need your certificate to buy ammunition and to show that you are in lawful possession of your firearms if you are stopped by the police. Instead, help the enquiry officer by providing a photocopy of your existing certificate and return the old one when the new one arrives. Your existing certificate remains valid even after your move.

If there is no significant change to your circumstances, your security should be acceptable in a new police jurisdiction unless you have moved into an area where the risk of crime has increased. The Home Office Guide says that each case must be taken on its merits and the police are not allowed to have blanket policies.

If you are asked to make changes, ask for a detailed explanation. If this does not satisfy you, ask for it in writing, plus a proper risk assessment. Also, if you are a member of an association, ask for help and representation.

When you receive your new certificate you must sign it immediately. If it is a firearms certificate, check its conditions against those of your old one. If they have been changed without reference to you and you are not happy with them, get in touch with the licensing department and ask for them to be changed. Firearms licensing should be consistent across the UK and conditions should not be altered merely due to a change of postcode.

  • Matt

    The constabulary you have moved to SHOULD inform the new area and pass your details. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will. I moved recently and emailed the issuing constabulary and the constabulary for the area I moved to. I asked for them to acknowledge receipt (which neither did). I also sent a letter by recorded post including a printed copy of the email. Nevertheless, when I sent my renewal in a year later, the old constabulary hadn’t informed the new, and the new didn’t seem to have taken any note of my informing them, so my renewal was listed as a new issue. New issues are taking upwards of six months here at the moment. Fortunately I managed to get hold of my FEO and he pushed the renewal through in less than two weeks (I had applied ten weeks before my certificates expired and several emails and phone calls to the licencing department didn’t yield any results, I’m glad I was persistent or I would certainly have been left in illegal possession of my firearms). So yes, your method is ok, but you may need to go above and beyond (though you shouldn’t) to overcome the institutional ineptitude and inertia that seems to be pervasive at the moment.