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The shooting community has been left aghast after South Yorkshire police recently sent a letter to 8,000 shotgun certificate holders in the county advising them to leave their gun cabinet keys with a friend if they are going away on holiday.

The advice in the letter went against Home Office Firearm Security Guidance.

Compliance with this guidance is mandatory for all firearms owners and non-compliance can put a shotgun certificate at risk.

The letter, written by Sergeant Michael Cox of the Firearms Licensing team, stated: If you are going on holiday then consider putting your guns in storage either with a dealer or friend. At the very least never leave your keys in the house, leave them with a friend or relative for safekeeping, obviously not with the same person who you may have left your house keys with.

BASC?s director of communications, Christopher Graffius, said he was surprised by the letter: ?It is worrying that a police force should issue advice which is contrary to the Home Office guidance.?

Mr Graffius added: ?We have spoken to South Yorkshire police and have made the point that it would have been sensible for them to have consulted us on the content of the letter before sending it out. We have already received many calls from worried members and I can well understand their concern and distress over this letter, which is estimated to have cost the taxpayers of South Yorkshire a minimum of £2,400, not including police time.?

David Moore, from Rotherham in South Yorkshire, received the letter on 27 July.

He told Shooting Times magazine that when he first read the letter he thought it was a joke.

?Sergeant Cox needs taking to task over this. He is bringing South Yorkshire police into disrepute. Someone should have vetted the letter before it was sent out,? he said.

Andrew Claxton, from Sheffield, also received the letter: ?In the past, I have been happy with the constabulary?s level of professionalism, so I was shocked to read the content of the letter. They need to reissue this letter and clarify their advice. I have written to the chief constable voicing my concerns.?

In response to the complaints of South Yorkshire?s shotgun certificate holders, the police have explained they sent the letter because there have been a number of gun thefts from certificate holders? homes.

Andy Hymas, from South Yorkshire police, said certificate holders will be contacted again to clarify the law on storing guns: ?The letter was advisory, alerting shooters to the fact we have had recent instances of thefts of firearms and reminding them of their responsibilities regarding security. Certificate holders will be contacted to address an area requiring clarification within the letter concerning the security of firearms.?

BASC?s senior firearms officer

MIKE EVELEIGH

?It is a shame this letter was ever sent out, as it is a blot on the otherwise good record of the South Yorkshire Firearms Licensing department.

The letter is misspelt, contradicts the Home Office Firearms Security Handbook and case law, and has caused confusion among BASC members in South Yorkshire.

This is a classic case of conflicting advice leading to misunderstanding. I only wish South Yorkshire police had spoken to BASC first ? we could have helped with the wording of the letter.

It is worth pointing out that the level of response BASC has received from members is highly unusual. In fact, this is way above anything it has experienced since the controversial handgun ban in 1997.?

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