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Should the firearms enquiry officer have taken a picture of my gun cabinet?

A reader thinks his security has been compromised

gun storage

Q: A while ago I started learning to shoot and now I have been granted my shotgun certificate.  I have  bought a gun cabinet and installed it. I keep ahead of firearms law and the rules on gun cabinets.However I have a query. I recently had my interview at my property with the local firearms enquiry officer as expected. What did surprise me though was when he took a photograph of my gun safe and where it was in my house. He didn’t explain why he was doing this.

I know that you are supposed to put your gun cabinet somewhere secure, safe and discreet so I am wondering if this is a breach of my security. Was the firearms officer entitled to take a photograph like this on my property? I think it was strange behaviour.

A: I agree with you that this was peculiar, because the firearms enquiry officer’s report would include a brief description of your security anyway. I can’t see any point in taking a photograph because you have no statutory duty to tell the police if you change your gun cabinet or its location. You may wish to upgrade it for a bigger one or move it to a new location, rendering any photograph obsolete. (Read our list of the best gun safes if you’re on the lookout for a new one.)

It would have been common courtesy on the firearm enquiry officer’s part to ascertain whether you were comfortable to have photographs of your home taken and the reason for this. You have the right to refuse — this cannot have any contribution towards a refusal of your application. The law requires you to afford “elementary co-operation” to the police. It does not allow a firearms enquiry officer to behave as he pleases. After all, he has no right of entry. My advice is not to allow this to happen, particularly if no credible explanation is offered. Saying that “it’s just routine” will not wash.

Stop and search powers

Q: I believe a police officer has the power to stop and search but do police community support officers, RSPCA officers and gamekeepers have the same power?

A) This is a wide question. In summary, the 1968 Firearms Act section 47 and the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act empowered the police to investigate possible firearms offences. In certain circumstances a police constable may require a person to hand over a firearm for examination and may stop and search a person or vehicle. Police community support officers are not specifically authorised persons under section 47. However, some standard and discretionary powers could grant them the power to stop and search persons involved in firearms related offences.

RSPCA officers are not authorised persons for stop and search purposes. Gamekeepers may arrest poachers on their employer’s land for night poaching, but in the case of daytime poaching they must first require the suspect to give his name and address and ask them to leave the land. Gamekeepers are not authorised to stop and search.

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.