Gun Safety

Some readers who are holders of firearms certificates may not be aware of the implications of the legal precedent set by the Court of Appeal case that I came upon recently involving a Mr Farrer back in 1999.

Mr Farrer, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Essex no less and a pillar of the community kept his shotgun in a purpose made police approved gun cabinet at his house in Essex where his aged mother also lived in an adjacent cottage. As is their right firearms officers called unannounced to confirm the gun was being stored safely in compliance with the Firearms legislation.

Mr Farrer was not at home so the mother, who knew where the key was, kindly offered to open the cabinet for inspection. On hearing of this the Chief Constable revoked Mr Farrer’s gun licence. The reason for this revocation was that he had allowed his mother – a person holding no shotgun certificate – access to his shotgun. The Crown Court ultimately upheld his decision concluding Mr. Farrer was in breach of the terms of his Shotgun Certificate by virtue of “not having it stored securely so as to prevent, as far as reasonably practicable, access to the shotgun by an unauthorised person”. This ruling has implications for all certificate holders as in effect technically you cannot entrust your gun or ammunition cabinet key or even knowledge of it whereabouts to anyone. What happens on your ultimate demise is unclear.

There is also the scenario where more than one member of the household has a firearms certificate and their guns are stored in a shared extra deep capacity shotgun cabinet or gun safe. They should consider having their guns cross catalogued on each certificate or risk falling foul of the letter of the law as interpreted by a zealous Chief Constable with an inbuilt and understandable prejudice against gun ownership of any kind.

You might also check the small print of your vehicle insurance as some insurers include an additional exclusion clause against carrying any goods for which you need a police licence including firearms ammunition.

Readers should be aware of their legal obligations and realise that their Firearms Certificate is as safe as the secure storage of their firearms and the care they take when they are in use or in transit.  The Firearms Act 1968 and the Firearms Rules 1998 contain the applicable law. More details can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/