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Gun cabinet law: can different licence owners have a key to the same cabinet?

What if one party only has a shotgun licence? Bill Harriman advises

Gun security

It is important to ensure that the keys to a gun cabinet are stored securely, ideally in a safe

What’s the situation with gun cabinet law when a shotgun owner only has a shotgun certificate but wants to store the guns in a cabinet along with rifles owned by another party (who has an FAC and a shotgun certificate)? (Read husband and wife cabinets – do we really need one each?)

Q: I have both rifles and shotguns on my licences. My wife is applying for her shotgun licence and wants to store any shotguns she buys in my cabinet. I think this would be a good idea but I don’t think it would be legal because she could then access my rifles. What is the solution? 

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) 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 prevent someone without a certificate from getting hold of your guns.

Gun cabinet law

Case law (R v Chelmsford Crown Court, ex parte Farrer [2000]) 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. (Read more on gun cabinet keys here.)

However, if someone comes across your spare keys inadvertently, for example while cleaning, no offence is committed.

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, December 2021. Paragraph 18.19 states: “With regard to shared security such as a firearm or shotgun certificate holder sharing a cabinet, 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.”

A steel cable or chain through your rifles’ trigger-guards satisfies the requirement to prevent your wife from having access to Section 1 firearms. You will also need a separate security provision for your ammunition, such as a lockable compartment in a cabinet or a small combination safe. As you both live together, it would also be sensible for all the shotguns in the cabinet to be entered on to both certificates.