What's the law? Bill Harriman advises ...
Q: I have a shotgun licence, registered in London, and a number of shotguns kept at that registered address. I also have a holiday home, which has a clay ground nearby. Rather than keep transporting a gun to the holiday house I am keen to install a cabinet and leave a gun there. What are the rules around this? Am I required to register it with the local police force?
A: It is perfectly legal to have a certificate with one police force and store guns at an address under another. The law requires you to “take reasonably practicable precautions to prevent unauthorised access to the shotguns” when they are not in use. It neither tells you how you must do that — everybody’s situation is different — nor where you must install the security measures to do it.
The risk of a gun in an unoccupied house
That said, I would question the wisdom of keeping a gun in an unoccupied house for long periods of time, even in a purpose-built gun cabinet. Personally, I would not do it.
Though it can be a bit of a chore, I would take the gun with me every time I thought I was going to the clay ground. It is no great inconvenience to put a gun into the car. Equally, there are bags available that have separate compartments for a dismantled shotgun.
These are excellent because nobody knows you have a shotgun with you if travelling on public transport. It is never a good idea to be carrying a gun-shaped slipcase in public these days.
The police should not be making unannounced visits to check on certificate holders’ guns. This is neither good practice nor cost-effective. The Home Office Guide on Firearms Licensing Law, published in 2016, is clear that any visit made without an appointment should be for a specific purpose which is driven by intelligence.
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According to paragraph 19.11 of the guidance, “where it is judged necessary, based on specific intelligence in light of a particular threat, or risk of harm, the police should undertake an unannounced home visit to check the security of a certificate holder’s firearms and shotguns.
“It is not expected that the police will undertake an unannounced home visit at an unsocial hour unless there is a justified and specific requirement to do so on the grounds of crime prevention or public safety concerns and the police judge that this action is both justified and proportionate.”