Now the season is fully under way, I think a timely reminder about gun security in the car would not go amiss. I’m told by my colleague Richard Kennett, of the Suffolk police, that recently there have been a small number of thefts of shotguns from cars in East Anglia. Certificate holders are responsible folk, and gun thefts from cars are very rare (only 23 in 2006-2007), but we must not become complacent.

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 the clink, a fine of up to £5,000; or both. In my experience, magistrates tend to deal harshly with certificate holders who transgress, so expect more than a smacked wrist.

Condition 4 (b) on your certificate states: 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. There is no legal definition of what this means; but the Oxford English Dictionary defines reasonable as Not greatly less or more than might be thought appropriate. Reasonableness is a middle course between two extremes.

The Home Office has issued some helpful guidance about leaving guns in cars: Any guns should be hidden, preferably in the locked boot or other secured load carrying area of the vehicle where practicable. If the vehicle is left unattended for any reason, firearms should be concealed, preferably in the locked luggage compartment and (where practicable), an essential component such as the bolt or fore-end removed and kept in possession of the responsible person. Where possible, any ammunition should be stored separately from the firearm and this too should be concealed from view. The vehicle should be locked, and any immobiliser or alarm should be set. If possible, the vehicle should be parked within the sight of the responsible person.

It is better not to leave a gun in an unattended vehicle but that is a council of perfection. You might 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.

Park close to a wall to prevent access to the back of the car; consider securing your gun with a cable and lock or use a specially designed slip such as the Napier Protector 2 Secure; shooting association window stickers may attract a thief.

If you follow this guidance, I think you are bombproof. It would be difficult to mount a prosecution and any revocation would be unjustified. Look upon it as a minimum standard and do better if you can. Often the police regard someone who has had a gun pinched from their car as a criminal rather than a victim. If you follow the guidance and go the extra mile, then you can put Mr Plod on the back foot and give him a hard time for not preventing car crime on his manor.

The theft of a shotgun is a grave matter, and the police will always view it 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, then 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.

  • michael thorpe

    sorry but my spellings are not good!
    this report is very intresting but has come to late for me, i was cleaning my guns in the early morning 6.00am to go out on a shooting holiday and staying in my motorhome,,pc plod called at my house at 9.20am and told me he wonted to do a firearms check,,he was not an feo just a pc plod, i told him i had been cleaning some guns i was going to take with me and i has put them in there cases on my bed room floor so as soon as i was drest i could load my car and leave to go on my camping/shooting holiday,, the pc plod insisted i showed him my guns so i did, i had asked him if he was fully trained to do this check and he told me he was fully trained, he never did ask to see my firearms licence so i did not offer it to him, i got out a bretta 301 shot gun and handed it to the pc plod who then lifted the shotgun to his eye and started to look down the barrel,,i told him off for being so stupid and told him that that end was the end that went bang and would blow his silly head off! the pc plod said it wont be loaded will it? he had not checked it and nore had i, i know it was unloaded but he did not! fully trained huh? he did not know any of the guns bar one a side by side 12 gage shotgun he said, i know this one as my grand dad had one just like it!!! oh man! and thats fully trained huh? the pc plod then sees the three guns on my bed room floor and freeks out saying there not safe like that they got to be locked up 24/7 and i cant put them in my car,,i tryed to explain the 1998 act 3,,4b rule but it was a wasts of time so i get nicked and after two weeks the cps throw the case out saying i broke no laws, so the police still wonting there knick send my file off to the fac dep and after 6 months my licence gets revoked,,, its been one big stich-up from day one,,just so there “mr jobs worth” gets his knick on his knick stick and can jump up and down saying look we solved all this gun crime??
    when no crime was ever comited, so i tell the police that im going to appeal and the police snigger at me and say go on then and its going to cost you £60,000 even if you win, you will still end up paying our costs and we can really make that hurt you,, so i dont think much of the police now, they used there uniforms as bullys and thugs and they have cheeted and liyed from the start twisting every thing i have said and trying to cover up for a young copper who cocked up from the start because he was not trained to do this job at all,,he was a compleat num-nuts to be honest!