The Government is changing the law to make it harder for criminals to access firearms
Owners of firearms which were previously classed as antique will require a firearms licence for them from Wednesday 22 September 2021 when the antique firearms law changes.
This follows legislation passed earlier this year on 22 March with the passage of the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021, which gave the definition of what constitutes an antique firearm for the first time in legal history.
Holders were given six months to decide whether to apply for a firearms certificate if they wanted to keep their firearm, or to otherwise dispose of it (for example, surrendering them to the police or selling them). (You can read our earlier detailed article on changes to antique firearms regulations here.)
Minister for Policing and Crime, Kit Malthouse, said: “Criminals have been exploiting a grey area in the law to get their hands on these firearms, so this change will make our streets safer and ensure these potentially deadly weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.
“There are of course legitimate reasons for owning a firearm that is an antique or was previously regarded as an antique, and their owners are not involved in any wrongdoing. They may be owned by a collector or as a family heirloom, for example.
“I would urge anyone who owns one of these weapons to check what is required and either licence them or legally dispose of them to ensure they do not fall foul of the law.”
Firearms qualifying as antique
To be regarded as an antique, a firearm must:
- have been manufactured before 1 September 1939, and
- either have a propulsion system of a type specified in the 2021 Regulations (for example, muzzle loaders, pin-fire or needle-fire) or the chamber(s) are those that the firearm had when it was manufactured (or a replacement that is identical in all material respects) and it is chambered for use with a cartridge specified in the 2021 Regulations, and
- be sold, transferred, purchased, acquired or possessed as a curiosity or ornament.
If firearms do not meet the above criteria the owner will need a licence from 22 September 2021.
Due to their use in crime, seven cartridges which previously appeared in the Home Office’s guidance were not included in the new legal definition. This means all firearms chambered for use with these cartridges listed below will require a licence from 22 September.
- .320 British (also known as .320 Revolver CF, short or long)
- .41 Colt (short or long)
- .44 Smith and Wesson Russian
- .442 Revolver (also known as .44 Webley)
- 9.4mm Dutch Revolver
- 10.6mm German Ordnance Revolver
- 11mm French Ordnance Revolver M1873 (Army)
Christian Ashwell, Criminal Firearms Threat Lead at the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: “Criminals gaining access to these seven calibres of self-contained cartridge revolver has led to their use in shootings across the UK, resulting in serious injuries and in some cases death.
“In response, the NCA has collaborated with the Home Office, policing partners and the lawful shooting communities to deliver these changes in regulation, to protect the public from future harm.
The Home Office states that applications must be made before the transition period ends at 23:59 on 21 September 2021. As long as a person has applied for a firearm certificate, they will remain in lawful possession of their firearm even if their application remains outstanding or is the subject of an outstanding appeal when the transition period ends. Application forms can be downloaded here.
Disposing of firearms
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for firearms licensing, Deputy Chief Constable Dave Orford, advised: “Anyone wishing to dispose of a firearm can hand it in to their nearest police station. If people suspect others of keeping an illegal firearm, they can report it via 101 or Crimestoppers.”
Further details about the changes to the law are set out in a HO circular: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/circular-0012021-antique-firearms.