Applying for a shotgun certificate isn't as difficult as you think. To make it even easier our legal expert David Frost answers some frequently asked questions …
What’s the cost?
Q. How much does a shotgun certificate cost and how long does it run for?
A. A certificate is valid for five years, after which it must be renewed if you wish to continue to possess shotguns. A new certificate costs £79.50 and renewal is £49.
Q. How old do you have to be before you can apply for a shotgun certificate? What are the rules on shooting under supervision – and at what age can I buy my own gun and shoot unsupervised?
A. There is no lower age limit for having a shotgun certificate and you sometimes hear of people as young as nine getting one. To some extent it depends on the physique and maturity of the person concerned and I would guess that 12 or 13 is a more normal age for getting a first certificate. Anyone under the age of 15 must be supervised by a person aged at least 21.
There is no legal requirement for the supervisor to have a shotgun certificate although it obviously makes sense that the supervisor should know what they are up to. You are not allowed to buy or hire a shotgun or ammunition until you are 17. You may be given a shotgun when you are 15 but there is no lower age limit at which a person may be lent a shotgun. My personal preference would be to start at about 12 and use a 20 bore which I regard as the smallest general-purpose shotgun.
Right is on your side
Q. I have sent off for my shotgun certificate. Will the police want to know where I will be using a gun before giving me permission to buy one?
A. The legislation requires the police to grant a shotgun certificate unless they can show either you don’t have good reason or that you present a danger to the public safety or peace. It isn’t a question of the police granting permission; it is you that has the absolute right to a certificate provided you have good reason and are a sober, sane and upright citizen.
The fact that you intend at some time or other to use the gun for sporting, competition or vermin shooting is sufficient and you don’t need to specify any piece of land over which you may shoot. You can also get a certificate if you have no intention of shooting but just want to keep a gun with the ultimate intention of passing it to a friend or relative.
Try before you buy
Q. I have always wanted to learn how to shoot clay pigeons but was told I needed to have my own certificate and gun before I could do so. The other day, however, I saw an advert in my local paper inviting people to have-a-go at the sport. The fee quoted covered cartridges, instruction and gun hire. Is this legal?
A. Almost certainly. The law allows somebody without a certificate to borrow and use a shotgun for shooting clay targets provided the clay ground is authorised for this purpose by the police.
Shooting schools normally have this authority but it is also possible for an individual running a clay shoot to apply for similar authority.
No limit on numbers
Q. How many guns can you have on a shotgun certificate, or do you have to buy a new certificate for each gun you get?
A. There is no limit to the number of shotguns that can be held on certificate and you do not need to get another certificate each time you buy a gun. Every time you acquire or dispose of a gun for a period exceeding 72 hours you must inform the police within seven days. Although some forces are now accepting email notifications, generally the notification must be in writing and sent by recorded delivery.
It should state the nature of the transaction, the details, including serial numbers, of the guns involved and the name and address of the other person. Both parties to a transaction must inform the police and the transfer of the guns must be made in person not by mail. The person disposing of a gun must enter the details in the recipient’s certificate. Acquisitions or disposals for a period of less than 72 hours do not need to be recorded or notified.
Q. I am applying for a shotgun certificate and have already bought a suitable gun cabinet. I understand the police will call on me once they get the application – what sort of questions will they ask, and what will they be trying to find out?
A. Your cabinet should conform to BS7558, which it probably does if it is of recent manufacture. It should ideally be secured to an inner wall of your house but if this is not possible some other method of securing it to the building will be acceptable, provided it is sufficiently difficult for the ungodly to prise the cabinet loose. It should be out of sight of casual visitors. The police will also look at the overall security of your house. Depending on the level of crime in your area they may suggest such measures as improving door and window locks. Alarm systems are not normally needed unless you live in a high crime area and have a large number of guns. If you need more information I suggest you look at the British Shooting Sports Council web site which has a link to the Home Office guidance document on security.
Have gun will travel
Q. The firearms officer I am dealing with says that when I apply for a certificate I should also ask for a European Firearms Pass at the same time, just in case I decide to go clay pigeon shooting abroad while I’m on holiday. What does he mean? Is it worth having – and how much will it cost?
A. This is another piece of EU bureaucracy but, unlike some, it’s actually quite useful. It’s essential to have an EFP if you intend to go shooting anywhere else in the EU. The EFP costs nothing and I suspect it is easier for the police to issue it at the same time as your certificate rather than at a later date. The firearms officer is trying to be helpful and you should accept his offer unless you are absolutely certain you will never shoot elsewhere in the EU.
Down, but not out
Q. Is it true that the police will not grant a shotgun certificate if you have ever been treated for depression, or received a custodial sentence in the past?
A. The law is quite specific about the effect of custodial sentences on your right to hold a firearm, shot gun or air gun. If you have been sentenced to three or more years in prison you are not allowed to possess a gun at any time. For sentences of between three months and three years you are prohibited from holding a gun for five years from the date of release. In all cases you can apply to the Crown Court or Sheriff’s Court to have the prohibition lifted.
Provided the offence you committed did not involve violence you stand a good chance of your application to the court being successful. If you have any conviction for violence at home or abroad, even with a sentence of under three months, the police may regard you as being unfit to have a firearm or shotgun but possession of an air gun would not be affected except as mentioned above.
It is more difficult to answer the question about depression as it depends so much on the individual circumstances. Provided your doctor is satisfied that you are cured there should be no problem but you can expect a slightly more tortuous application procedure than usual.
No proof needed
Q. Will it help my application for a shotgun certificate if I’m already a member of one of the shooting organisations? The reason I ask is that a friend says the police need a ‘good reason’ for anyone wanting a gun.
A. From the point of view of getting a shotgun certificate it doesn’t matter if you belong to an organisation or not. however there are plenty of good reasons for joining one of the main organisations such as BASC, Countryside Alliance or CPSA, not least of which are that they work for the future of the sport and provide good insurance cover. The law specifies that sporting, competition and vermin shooting are good reasons for possessing a shotgun. You do not have to provide proof that you belong to a club or have access to sporting rights in order to obtain a certificate. It is up to the police to prove that you don’t have good reason rather than for you to prove that you do.
A rose among thorns
Q. I live in an inner city area that has an extremely bad reputation for crime of all sorts. I have been taking shooting lessons and would love to get my own gun so that I can go more often – but will where I live affect my chances of getting a certificate?
A) Provided you don’t associate with criminals the locality in which you live will have no effect on whether or not you can get a shotgun certificate. So long as the police do not regard you personally as being a danger to the public safety or peace there is no problem. If you live in an area with a high burglary rate you may have to install more than the normal minimum level of security for your guns.