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I forgot to tell the police about my new gun in time. Now what?

A forgetful reader is worried. Bill Harriman advises.

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Gun notification is a legal commitment when you’re a shooter. You need to tell the police about owning a new firearm within seven days of buying one.  So what happens if you get busy and communicating the purchase of a new gun slips your mind? Here’s what our legal expert advised a reader.

Q: Nearly two months ago I  bought a new gun. I had a lot of other stuff going on at the time and to be honest, I forgot to inform the police within the required seven-day gun notification period so that it could be added to my licence.  I have now sent the police the required paperwork but it is six weeks since I bought the gun. Should I call the police to notify them of this or is a letter ok? And am I likely to lose my firearms licence over this?

Gun notification failure is a criminal offence

Bill Harriman advises: It is a criminal offence to fail 
to notify the acquisition or disposal of a shotgun.

However, though you have made this notification out of time, you have eventually completed the audit trail and the police may take the view that it is not worth prosecuting you. They may decide to dispose of the matter by means of a warning letter or verbal advice. If the latter, be contrite when it is delivered and say this was an oversight on your part.

Whatever happens, you must 
get a grip and learn from this experience. Do not let it happen again, otherwise the police will allege that this indicates the start 
of a pattern of slackness and law-breaking; your certificate will 
be in jeopardy as a result.

You can notify acquisitions by email (this is called “permitted electronic means”). The address 
to which such notices must be sent will appear on the police website under the firearms licensing section. Ask for a read receipt.

If you prefer to make the notice 
by letter always keep a copy. You must also use a tracked service requiring a signature on delivery. Police forces are large organisations and post gets lost sometimes. That is the police’s problem; armed with the tracking receipt you are bombproof.

In your circumstances, I would send an email follow-up with your sincere apologies for the lateness 
and hopefully that will be an end 
to the matter.

The Government Guide on Firearms Licensing Law

5.19 Section 33 of the 1997 Act requires that, within seven days of the transaction, the transferor and transferee must send, electronically (for example, by e-mail or fax) or by recorded or special delivery, notification to the chief officers of police who issued their own certificates. The transferor is the person who originally possessed the gun, and the transferee is the recipient (and it is the transferor who must write the details of the gun and its transfer onto the certificate of the transferee). The notice of the transaction must contain a description of the firearm or shotgun (including any identification number), state the nature of the transaction and give the name and address of the other person concerned.