Applying for a firearms certificate: how to go about it
Charles Smith-Jones advises on applying for a firearms certificate
Applying for a firearms certificate is a straightforward procedure, so there is no need to be concerned. You need to satisfy the police licensing authority that you are a fit person to possess firearms. Before you go any further, however, it’s worth getting your storage arrangements for rifle and ammunition organised, as the grant of an FAC will be subject to keeping them safe from unauthorised hands.
You will be expected to keep the rifle separate from the ammunition, and also to disable it (for example, by storing the bolt separately) in case it falls into the wrong hands. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use an approved steel gun cabinet – most rifle owners opt for one with an internal locking compartment, secured with a different key from that for the main cabinet door, to keep the bolt and ammunition in. (Read more on gun cabinets here.)
You don’t have to buy a cabinet of course. I have seen many variations on the theme ranging from understairs cupboards with upgraded doors to spare bedroom conversions or even steel-lined exterior log cabins. Nowhere is a strict template laid down, but rest assured that the licensing authority will need to be satisfied that your firearm will be safe from unauthorised access. A secure house is important, and an alarm system helps.
As a general rule, your storage facilities should not be immediately accessible from outside your home and secure enough to resist an opportunistic thief. If in doubt, give the firearms licensing department a call. They will be happy to advise you on what they will be looking for when they visit to check. BASC has a very useful page listing the contact details for firearms licensing departments on their website.
And visit they will. As part of the process, a member of the firearms licensing team will want to physically examine your facilities after your application has been received. This will probably be combined with an informal question and answer session covering your FAC application to satisfy themselves that you are a suitable person to own a firearm; some constabularies may expect you to be able to name an experienced mentor or provide appropriate proof of competence, such as a Deerstalking Certificate level one.
Applying for a firearms certificate – getting the forms
Filling in the application form is simple enough, though it will demand a little thought on your part. You can usually download it from the website of your relevant police force and submit it online. The form you need is the ‘Application for the Grant or Renewal of a Firearm and/or Shotgun Certificate, Form 201’. There are plenty of explanatory notes and you should read these through carefully before starting to fill it in.
Most of the questions are self-explanatory, but do be honest and complete with your answers as your application will be checked through carefully. You will need to enter the calibre and type of rifle that you need to acquire as we considered in last month’s article – in most cases this will be along the lines of ‘bolt-action rifle’. You should also enter a sound moderator as a separate item as these currently need to be held on a FAC. If you are considering getting another Section 1 firearm, such as a .22 rifle or a large capacity semi-auto shotgun, consider adding them at the same time. It will save you the cost of a variation later, and you will be under no obligation to purchase one immediately or indeed at all.
Good reason for possessing the firearm is essential, and will need to be backed up with proof of where you will be using it and for what purpose. If you just say deerstalking, this may be all that ends up on the conditioning of the FAC and you will not, for instance, be authorised for shooting fox or boar. It is also very possible that your first FAC will limit use of the firearm to specific places, so once again be as complete as possible and think ahead. More open FAC conditions may only come with future renewals.
You’ll also need to say how much ammunition you will want to acquire and possess at any time. Commercially produced ammunition can be expensive and you may not think that you will be buying large amounts, but a bit of range work coupled with occasional stalking may soon go through it. Many stalkers prefer to buy ammunition in batches of around 100 at a time to ensure consistency or to guard against temporary shortages.
Don’t forget to include the details of two people who will act as referees for you; the notes at the end of the form tell you more. The licensing authorities will contact them independently so all you need to do is get their agreement before nominating them.
You must also disclose any medical conditions that could affect your suitability to own a firearm, and will also need to provide a medical pro forma signed by a doctor. Many practices charge for this service and the cost can vary. Regrettably, some doctors who have a personal objection to firearms ownership may refuse to do this. In this case you will need to find one who is prepared to, and there are some who advertise the service for a fee.
Don’t forget to include a photograph (once again, consult the notes on the application form). You will also need to make a payment for the grant of an FAC, currently £88. If you already hold or are also applying for a shotgun certificate, you might consider applying for a coterminous certificate which means that both your FAC and shotgun certificate expire and renew at the same time. This is a much cheaper option than taking out or renewing both separately. FACs usually need to be renewed every five years.
If any of the form’s content proves confusing, ask an experienced friend, gunshop owner or shooting ground staff for help. If you still have questions, ring your local firearms licensing department. Once you have completed the form, read it through carefully to check that you have not missed anything before submitting it with your payment, photograph, doctor’s letter and proof of permissions.
All you can do after applying for a firearms certificate is wait. With luck it may only be a few weeks before the FAC arrives through the post but some constabularies are more efficient than others. Read it carefully to check that you have been granted what you asked for and take special note of the conditions on the front page. Finally, sign it immediately – you might be surprised by how many people don’t, and the FAC is not valid until you do