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Sending a gun to auction – do I have to tell the police?

FAQs about shotguns and auctions answered by Bill Harriman

auctioneers gavel

Notification of selling at gun auction

Q: I have put a shotgun that I no longer use into a gun auction. When do I have to tell the police that it is no longer on my licence? (Read gun auctions – the dos and don’ts)

A: The police only need to be informed that you have disposed of your shotgun when it sells at auction, and you have been paid for it. Only then is the contract complete.

Do not tell the police that you have disposed of it when you first consign it to the auctioneer because it may not sell and you might decide to keep it after all. In the interim, you need to account for its whereabouts, so make sure you get a receipt from the auctioneer and keep that with your shotgun certificate. (Read more on shotgun certificates here.)

When the proceeds from the sale are safely in your bank account, tell the police licensing department that issued your certificate that you have disposed of it and provide the auctioneer’s details. Keep a copy of any email and ask for a read receipt. Then you are bombproof if it is ever alleged you did not notify of the disposal.

Rule a neat line through the entry on your certificate at Table 1 and annotate it accordingly, for example: “Sold through Bloggs & Co Auctioneer, 13 March 2023, Lot 369.”

gun auction

How to buy a gun at auction

Auction houses can seem like hostile environments, where amateurs may be ripped off whether buying or selling.

In reality, a gun auction is usually a friendly place where experts will give honest assessments of your possession or target item and guide you through the process.

The sales can be fun, too, though it is worth remembering that the auction house is a business and not a charity. (Find out more about reading proof marks on guns here.)

Freelance auctioneer David Porter is a regular face at many of the top gun sales in the country, especially at the specialists Holts. He believes it pays to go with a large, reputable house rather than take your chances with a smaller outfit: “I am biased,” he admitted, “but I would always say the bigger the better. You need people who are enthusiastic and passionate about selling a gun that is dear to you it makes a difference.” (Read this interview with Nick Holt of Holts Auctioneers.)

“You want a big team of experts to consult as they will have a wider knowledge. It is a question of trust that the estimation and reserve prices are accurate.”

There is an age-old joke of the punter waving to his friend across the room and accidentally buying an expensive lot. Indeed, David often uses it to relieve tension and raise a few laughs. However, in reality, there is no chance of it happening, as David points out, “Over the years, the auctioneer learns the body language of someone who wants to bid. They tend to sit up in their chair or catch your eye. It doesn’t matter if you raise your hand, wink or wave your programme, I’ll soon catch on.”

However, if you do bid, then you must be prepared to stump up the cash: “When the hammer falls, a legal contract is formed, as strong as if you had signed a piece of paper. If you were to walk out of the room or refuse to pay, then you could be legally pursued. It can be disruptive, but in my 15 years of selling guns, this rarely happens. Bidders at a gun auction are more heavily vetted than others.”

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.