What’s the position when the owner of a gun dies?

What happens to shotguns after owner’s death?

Q: What is the best thing to do if someone you know has died and they held a licence and owned shotguns that are still within their premises? It is still early days waiting on a post-mortem examination and death certificate, and no one else is aware of the guns.

I am the deceased’s neighbour and the only person at present with a house key. Is there an authority that should be contacted? I will be informing the family of these facts but at the moment I think it’s best that the fewer people who know about the guns the better.

As a matter of urgency, you need to find out who are the executors of the deceased’s estate because they are the only people who can decide what is going to happen to the guns. Then the executor needs to contact the police licensing department that issued the deceased’s certificate and inform them of the death. At the same time, the executor should apply to the licensing department for a free temporary permit under Section 7 of the 1968 Firearms Act. They should request one that lasts for six months to give plenty of time to decide what to do with the guns.

While the Section 7 permit allows for lawful possession, it is never a good idea to leave guns in an unoccupied house for a long period. There may be a relative or friend of the deceased who could put the shotguns on his/her own certificate. Failing that, the local gun shop may store them (for a fee) until the executor decides what to do.
One thing that you should not do is to involve the local uniformed police because they will not know what to do and will just seize the guns. Once any firearm is in the police property system, it is difficult to extract it. Your dealings should be exclusively with the firearms licensing department.


What is a Section 7 temporary permit?

This temporary permit authorises your personal representatives to be in lawful possession of your guns until they decide what to do. You can get a Section 7 temporary permit free of charge – we suggest you ask for one for a period of three months.

BASC advises:

  • If you own firearms or shotguns, you can help your executor or next of kin by creating a large envelope to be opened in the event of your death.
  • Inside you need to put: instructions to write to the firearms licensing department, contact details for the firearms licensing department, a list of the guns you own and whether you have loaned any, copies of your shotgun and firearms certificates and details of where to source the originals, information on where the keys to your gun cabinet are stored.
  • It’s also a good idea to include contact details of a friend who would look after your guns until a decision is made (they will need to be the holder of the temporary permit).