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How to avoid having your shotgun certificate taken away

It takes long enough to get one so the last thing you want to happen is to lose your shotgun certificate. Here's the law and what you need to watch out for.


The rules on borrowing and lending shotguns are clear

Removed, confiscated, lost. In fact the correct term for having your shotgun certificate taken away by a firearms licensing department is having it revoked. The revocation basically means that you are no longer considered a responsible and safe shooter by the law and so your privilege is removed. Obviously that’s something no shooter wants to experience so here’s what you need to know about avoiding falling foul of the firearms officer.

As responsible shooters we all want to do our best to show our sport in the best light – and having your shotgun certificate taken away is definitely not a responsible way to go on. So here are the most common reasons for having your certificate revoked that you need to be aware of.  (Read will I lose my shotgun certificate because I have had a formal police caution?)

Seven causes for having your shotgun certificate taken away

1. An acrimonious split from a partner

According to Peter Glenser, QC and chairman of The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), more people are losing shotgun certificates or firearms certificates during divorce proceedings than under any other circumstances. The loss often follows an untrue allegation from a bitter ex. He continues: “It’s one person’s word against another and the police will err on the side of caution, take away your firearms and it may take a long time to get them back.”

It may be worth having your firearms stored by a registered firearms dealer in the interim so that you have any empty gun cabinet at home. (Read our tips on gun cabinet law here.)  In any case, if you are at all concerned, take some legal advice. If you are a member of a shooting organisation like BASC they will be able to advise you. We always advise shooters to be members of a shooting organisation so that they can receive legal advice.

2. Using social media irresponsibly

Back in 2015, a Scottish champion clayshooter lost his licence after posting a prank on Facebook when holding a gun. The police saw the post and were not amused. “Shooters should also consider carefully what they put on social media” said Christopher Graffius of BASC. Posting without thinking is a good way of having your shotgun certificate taken away. So watch those Instagram stories and any TikToks you’re doing. (Posting photographs of big bags isn’t great either by the way.)

3. Failing to keep your ammunition locked up

Use a .22 rimfire? Go lamping? Make sure that you lock your ammunition up properly afterwards rather than leave it in the glove compartment of your 4×4. If the police see it they may give you a warning or they may think that if you can’t keep your ammo secure, you may not be able to keep your gun secure . Then they will remove your licence from you.

4. Losing your temper

Avoid having a scrap in the pub or getting involved in a road rage incident. If you come to the attention of the police they may consider you an unsuitable candidate for a shotgun or firearms certificate. Remember that as a responsible shooter it is your duty to do everything you can not to put shooting into disrepute.

5. Trespassing

Make sure you always shoot where you have permission, otherwise you can be charged with trespassing. If a landowner (who could be anti-shooting) reports you to the police you could find yourself arrested for armed trespass and minus your shotgun or firearms certificate.

alcohol, guns and the law

The Licensing Act 1872 makes it an offence to be drunk in charge of a loaded gun

6. Over-indulging

Home Office guidance to the police suggests that if you are of “intemperate habits” you should not be trusted with a shotgun or firearm. Peter Glenser advised:

“I tried to find out what they meant by intemperate habits, and my local firearms enquiry officer said he thought anything over 30 units a week.”

Drinking during a shoot day isn’t advisable either. The Licensing Act 1872  makes it an offence to be drunk in charge of a loaded gun. Furthermore if you are stopped for drunk driving on the way home and charged, you are not only a danger on the road, you could be looking at losing more than your driving licence. (Read our advice on alcohol, guns and the law.)

7. Failing to store your shotgun and firearms securely

The days of keeping a shotgun in the corner of the farmhouse kitchen are long gone. Now you need to keep your guns securely locked away in a gun cabinet. Refuse to take suitable precautions or co-operate with the police and you’ll have your shotgun and/or firearms certificate removed.

This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated