The following information is presented by Marple Rifle & Pistol Club (MRPC) in good faith. It is our understanding of certain aspects of current legislation covering the licensing of guns within England and Wales but should not be taken as a complete or definitive statement of the law. Any case of doubt should be referred to a solicitor specialising in firearms law, or the Firearms Licensing Unit of your local police force. Note especially that Northern Ireland, Scotland and locations such as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not covered by the following information and we advise that specialist help should be sought for any legal queries within these territories.
If you have a specific question concerning obtaining a Firearms Certificate or Shotgun Certificate (often incorrectly called a Gun Licence) or the law applying to Airguns within England and Wales, or simply wish to ask our Legal Eagle for his advice on these matters, or require advice on shooting in general, write to him (no telephone queries please) by clicking on the link shown below at:
Note that SGCs and FACs are NEVER granted for the purposes of self-defence or the defence of property.
This information is believed to be correct as of February 2011. You are advised to check with your local police force, a solicitor specialising in firearms law or any of the national bodies such as: The National Clay Shooting Centre (NSC).
A Shotgun Certificate (SGC) is required before you can purchase or possess a shotgun, or even certain parts of a shotgun, e.g. a spare barrel. It is important that any prospective applicant reads fully the section on Gun Law before attempting to apply. The cost of an SGC is £50 for a first issue and £40 for a renewal. The life of an SGC is five years before it needs to be renewed. The police will usually remind an SGC holder several months in advance of renewal date.
The definition of a shotgun which may be held on an SGC is a smooth-bore gun (not being an air gun) which has a barrel or barrels not less than 24 inches in length and does not have any barrel with a bore exceeding 2 inches in diameter. It must have either no magazine or a non-detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges. It may not be a revolver. In addition, pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns must be longer than 40 inches overall, excluding any folding, retractable or detachable buttstock. Pumps and semi-autos which either have barrels less than 24 inches, or are shorter than 40 inches may not be held on either an SGC or an FAC - they are prohibited weapons.
An SGC is not required to possess shotgun ammunition which contains five or more pellets, none of which pellets exceed .36 inch in diameter, but an SGC is required to purchase such ammunition. Shotgun ammunition which does not meet these criteria (such as solid slug ammunition) may only be purchased and held on a Firearms Certificate.
When an application is made for an SGC the police will wish to satisfy themselves that the applicant may be permitted to possess a shotgun without danger to public safety or to the peace. This will necessitate an interview and consideration of the applicant's security arrangements. The law does not require the applicant to make out a good case for being granted an SGC, but rather extends the police's grounds for refusing one. The police should therefore need to make further inquiries only where it comes to their notice that there may be genuine doubts about the applicant's reason for wishing to possess a shotgun.
When completing the SGC application you will be asked whether you have ever been convicted of any offence at any time. Do NOT be tempted to "forget" even the most trivial offence, no matter how long ago it was. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does NOT apply when applying for an SGC and the police DO check thoroughly. Previous convictions do not always necessarily mean refusal to grant an SGC, but if you do not declare an offence and it is revealed by the police checks, then you will certainly be refused and will also be looking at prosecution for having made a false declaration to obtain an SGC.
The application also requires you to nominate a countersignatory to certify that they know of no reason why you should not be permitted to possess shotguns, and to verify to the best of their knowledge that the information provided on the form is true. The countersignatory is not required to provide the information requested of referees for FAC applications, but the police may contact the countersignatory where there are doubts about the applicant's suitability. Members of your family are not permitted to act as countersignatories, nor are serving police officers, nor a Registered Firearms Dealer.
When an SGC is granted it permits the holder to possess any number of shotguns. Unlike an FAC, separate authorities are not required for each gun. However, the practical limit to the number of guns possessed will be dictated by the amount and nature of the security which the SGC holder has. The precise requirements for storage of shotguns are not actually specified in law. The legislation merely says that they "must be stored securely at all times so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to the guns by unauthorized persons". In practice, a steel cabinet constructed and certified to comply with BS 7558 and bolted to the wall is the norm. The vast majority of commercially available gun and rifle cabinets meet the necessary standards. Again, seek advice from established Club members and your police Firearms Enquiry Officer on the subject of firearm security. If your premises have shared access, for example if you live in an apartment block, the requirements may be more stringent. You should also note that the police will want to ensure that only you in your household will have access to the guns, so you must be able to reassure them that no other person will have access to the cabinet keys or knows the location of any spare set. Some years ago a well-respected solicitor had his Firearm and Shotgun Certificates revoked because he admitted that his 80 year old mother knew where the spare keys to his gun cabinet were kept. There was no evidence that his mother actually handled the guns - the mere fact that she knew where the keys were, was sufficient to cause the loss of his certificates.
Follow this link for details of costs of an FAC or SGC or this link to ask our Legal Eagle for his advice.
Please note: 1) Licence is a noun and License is a verb and 2) Advice is a noun and Advise is a verb in British English spelling.
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The Legal Eagle facility was launched on 4th February 2011