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Husband and wife gun cabinets – do we really need one each?

The husband has a firearms certificate, the wife a shotgun certificate. So what's the law on storing guns? Bill Harriman clarifies the matter.

Female Gun with pheasant

We all know that as responsible shooters we need to store our firearms securely. But what’s the deal if two partners sharing a home both have guns? Does each individual need their own gun cabinet? And what about the gun cabinet keys – should each partner know where the others keys are?

Q: I’m wondering if we need to have two husband and wife gun safes in our house or whether it would be legal to just have one. I shoot both rifles and shotguns and so have both a firearms certificate and a shotgun certificate. My wife has taken up shooting in the past year and is in the process of applying for her shotgun licence and buying a shotgun.

It would be easiest if we could store all the guns in one cabinet but I don’t that would be legal as my rifles would then be accessible by my wife. What is the solution? Will we have to have separate husband and wife cabinets for my rifles and another for shotguns?

Are husband and wife gun cabinets really necessary?

A: Every firearm and shotgun certificate carries a statutory condition which states that: “(a) The firearms and ammunition [or shotguns] to which the certificate relates must at all times (except in the circumstances set out in paragraph (b) below) be stored securely so as to prevent so far as is reasonably practicable, access to the firearms and ammunition [or shotguns] by an unauthorised person.”

The important words in this condition are “reasonably practicable”, which means that you have to do your best within your own individual circumstances to stop someone without a certificate getting hold of your guns.

Case law establishes that if you deliberately let another person who is not a certificate-holder have access to the keys or combination of your gun cabinet you commit an offence. This means that you must store your keys securely as well. However, if someone comes across your spare keys inadvertently, no offence is committed.

gun cabinet for safe shotgun storage

Your gun cabinet should be secured to an inner wall of your house

The law on safe shotgun storage

The Home Office recognises that people who live together will want to share security measures and issues sensible advice in its Guide on Firearms Licensing Law. Paragraph 19.19 states that: “With regard to shared security… separate security provisions to prevent access to firearms once in the cabinet should be made. Devices such as lockable high tensile steel cables are considered suitable for this purpose.”

Use a steel cable through your rifle trigger guards

A steel cable or chain through your rifle(s) trigger-guards satisfies the requirement to prevent your wife from having access to Section 1 firearms. If you have separate security provisions for your ammunition, consider storing the rifle’s bolt in it as well. It would be sensible for all the shotguns in the cabinet to be on both certificates.