Is it a legal requirement?
It’s a question we’re often asked. “Do I have to carry my shotgun certificate with me?” In law you don’t have to carry a shotgun or firearms certificate with you when you are out shooting. However it may be a good idea to carry a photocopy or take a photograph of your shotgun licence to keep handy on your phone. Section 48 of the 1968 Firearms Act allows a constable to require that a person stopped in possession of a firearm, or suspected to be in possession of one, to produce a certificate. If he cannot do so, the constable may ‘seize and detain’ the firearm until a certificate can be produced. This might be very inconvenient if the constable is stationed some distance away. I would not want a gun of mine in a police property store, where there is a real possibility of it getting damaged.
However, the Firearms Act was written before the days of radios, mobile phones and computerised licensing, so the constable can now check whether you are a certificate holder at any time of the day or night and doesn’t really need to see the certificate.
A photocopy is clear evidence
If you were to be stopped, a photocopy represents clear evidence that you are indeed a certificate holder. If the original certificate becomes illegible or damaged, the police will replace it for nothing, providing that the remains can be produced. If a certificate is lost entirely, a replacement will cost you £4.
Important legal documents
Shotgun certificates and firearm certificates are important legal documents. It is easy for them to become lost or damaged if carried in the field every time you go out and there is a strong argument for keeping the originals in a safe place at home, possibly in your gun safe.
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Check your shotgun certificate
All shotgun owners have to renew their certificate every five years so check yours regularly to see when yours is due.
It pays to think ahead especially when dealing with renewals. Do not wait for a police renewal letter. Get your renewal application to the police at least 12 weeks before your certificate is due to expire. Don’t get caught out by a slow response from your issuing police force – it can take quite a while to get your certificate through depending on where you live.
A temporary permit
If your certificate expires before you receive a valid replacement, you should ask for a temporary permit, issued under Section 7 of the Firearms Act 1968. It should be granted in the event of an administrative delay where the applicant has submitted their application in good time.
Do I have to send my certificate to my shooting club?
Q: I have been invited to join a syndicate but the shoot secretary has asked me to send a copy of my shotgun certificate. Surely this is confidential information? Is there any legal requirement for me to comply?
A: Many syndicates, wildfowling clubs and other shooting venues wish to verify that those joining them are lawfully authorised to possess shotguns. This is a reasonable and responsible action on the part of those running a shoot or a shooting club. However, shoots or clubs may only retain a copy of a certificate if they are registered under the Data Protection Act.
While there is no legal requirement for you to show your certificate, there is equally no legal requirement for the shoot to accept you as a member if you decide not to show it to them. My advice would be for you to show your certificate to the shoot captain or secretary and allow them to make a note of, say, the expiry date but not to allow a copy to be kept.