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Can you leave rifles and shotguns unattended in cars? Am I breaking the law?

Can you leave your shotgun in the car for a short while? What about during a business meeting? And what about rifles?

rifles and shotguns unattended in cars

Shotguns should be stored properly and not left in the back of the vehicle

Should I go back home so I don’t have to leave my gun in the car?

Q: I’m going shooting with a client and meeting him at 9.30am at the office. I will get there earlier at 7.30am to do some work beforehand. My question is can you leave rifles and shotguns unattended in cars or should I go home before I meet him to pick up my gun? It’s a 30-mile round trip to go home.

A: The law requires you to take reasonable precautions of the safe custody of your shotgun while it is in use or in transit to a place of use. “Reasonable” has to apply to the personal circumstances of the certificate holder at the time. It would be unreasonable for you to make the 30-mile round trip but if you had to drive past or near to your home en route to the place where you intended to shoot, it would be reasonable to leave your gun 
at home and pick it up on the way.

Breaking down a gun

Breaking down your gun into fore-end, action and stock makes it safe in transit

The best plan

Leave the barrels and fore-end in your car, out of sight and locked up. Take the stock and action with you into work in a holdall or grip so that it is not obviously part of a gun and keep it with you and in your care while you work. When you go shooting at 9.30am, the components can be assembled.  Discretion is the word here. If nobody knows you have a key part of your gun with you that is best.

shotgun cartridges in different bores

Shotgun cartridge safety rules

Every responsible shooter should be aware of the all-important cartridge safety rules. You must NEVER  mix cartridges of different calibres.…

What about rifles and deer stalking?

Q: A friend has told me that I will be in big trouble with the law if I leave my rifle in the car after stalking? Is that true or is he winding me up?

A: The whole of the law on the safekeeping of firearms is contained on your firearm certificate.

These circumstances say: “Where a firearm or ammunition to which the certificate relates is in use or the holder has it with him for the purpose of cleaning, repairing or testing it or for some other purpose connected with its use, transfer or sale, or the firearm or ammunition is in transit to or from a place in connection with its use or any such purpose, reasonable precautions must be taken for the safe custody of the firearm or ammunition.”

That is the law. If you hear anything else from friends, people you shoot with, the Home Office or even the police then it is to be treated as advice. It is not legislation.

Rifles should not be left unattended in cars except in exceptional circumstances where there is no reasonable alternative. If you really have to leave one, make sure you hide it well from view and remove the bolt and ammunition. That way a thief will not be able to use the rifle even if the vehicle is stolen or broken into.

If you follow that advice you will be following the “reasonable precautions” that must be met on your firearm certificate.