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How can my firearms cabinet be opened lawfully?

What happens if the cabinet needs opening after the owner's death but nobody else has a firearms or shotgun certificate?

gun storage

What happens to firearms after the death of the owner? I’ve been wondering if I should give a sealed letter, only to be opened upon my death or incapacity, to my solicitor outlining where the keys to my gun cabinet are located.

And what arrangements should I make for the orderly disposal of my firearms?

How can my firearms cabinet be opened lawfully by my friends and family if they don’t possess a firearms or shotgun certificate. Obviously I have a valid certificates myself. What should I be doing to prepare things?

The law on gun cabinet access

I am sure you will be well aware of Standard Condition 4(b), which applies to both shotgun and firearms certificates.

This requires you to store your firearms securely so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to them by an unauthorised person.

However, a result of this is that it prevents you from disclosing the whereabouts of the key to the gun cabinet to any person, such as your wife or next of kin who does not have a shotgun or firearms certificate. If you break this condition then you are guilty of a criminal offence. It is a serious matter.

What you need to do

You should prepare a sealed envelope containing information about the firearms cabinet and its key and give it to your executor.

The envelope should be clearly marked “Not to be opened until after I die or become mentally incapacitated”. Inside you should give details of your guns and how they can be accessed. Include details of how to get a temporary (Section 7) permit from the police so that your executors can hold the guns in the meantime.

Alternatively, if you deposit a sealed envelope containing the location of your keys, to be kept in a deed box at your lawyer’s office and only opened after your death, it would be unlikely that you would be prosecuted for it.

BASC has a useful leaflet on bereavement and unlicensed firearms which you can read here.

A temporary permit should be granted to your executor or to one of your relatives by the chief constable (acting as the chief firearms licensing officer), which would enable the permit holder to dispose of your firearms.

He or she must do this in accordance with the terms of your will.