We can't do much to help with the stress of moving house. But this is what you must do in relation to your shotgun and firearm certificates and guns. Bill Harriman tells you what you need to know.

When you’re moving house you want everything to run as smoothly as possible. But what should you do if you’re a gun owner? What are the legalities to obey with a firearms or shotgun certificate when you’re moving house?

Well, you must tell the local police about your forthcoming move at the earliest opportunity. Keep them posted. One of the listed conditions (condition 3) that you must follow on your firearm or shotgun certificate covers moving house. It 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.”

Forget this at your peril – it is a criminal offence not to abide by any condition on a firearm or shotgun certificate.

firearms officer

You MUST tell the police about your forthcoming move at the earlier opportunity

Permanent not temporary move

Notify the police when you are going to be in your new property long-term, not just for a couple of weeks.

Consider these.

  1. What does “without undue delay” actually mean? There is no set time period for notification, but it shouldn’t be excessive. As a suggested guide, give notice of your address change when you have unpacked your boxes in the new home and installed your gun cabinet.
  2. Notice the use of the word ‘permanent’. This means that you really have upped sticks, registered to vote in your new location, pay community tax, signed up with a GP etc.  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.
gun cabinet

Give notice of your address change when you have unpacked your boxes in the new home and installed your gun cabinet.

How to notify the police of your house move

  • The notification must be sent to the police force that issued your certificate (but don’t send in your certificate).
  • Send it by recorded delivery and 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 match up 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.

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.

Other FAQs about firearms certificates when moving house

Q: Do I have to have my licence changed every time I move?

I am a newly qualified junior doctor. As part of my final training I am being sent on various placements in Britain and abroad, but I am still living at home with my parents. The licensing department has told me that I will have to inform the police and have my licence changed every time I move. Some jobs are only for a few months, so I would have moved before my licence was reissued. 
Is this advice right?

A: Absolutely not. The person who told you this clearly had no idea of what the law provides. Condition three on your shotgun certificate reads: “The holder of this certificate must, without undue delay, inform the chief officer 
of police by whom the certificate 
was granted of any change of permanent address.”

If you are not moving away from your parents permanently, you do not have to tell the police. End of story. There is case law on the subject — Burditt vs Joslin (1981). Colonel Burditt was an Army officer who let his house on posting to the British Army of the Rhine. He applied to a UK police force for a certificate. This was refused on 
the grounds that he was not a UK resident at the time.

Col Burditt appealed and his appeal was dismissed. The test the court applied was that to be a UK resident you needed unfettered access to a UK address.

My advice is to ignore the advice and, if challenged, cite the above case.