There is a general sense in shooting circles that the police are reluctant to issue new certificates and are quick to revoke existing ones. In April 2016 the Home Office Published Guidelines on Firearms stating:
“UK firearms policy is based on the fact that firearms are dangerous weapons and the State has a duty to protect the public from their misuse. Gun ownership is a privilege, not a right. Firearms control in the UK is among the toughest in the world, and as a result firearms offences continue to make up a small proportion (”less than 0.2%) of recorded crime.”
Whilst the police may be quick to revoke a firearms license or shotgun certificate this decision has to be backed up in court should the holder appeal. Interestingly the appeal is not heard as a review of the police decision but rather by a judge and two magistrates hearing the evidence as if they were the Chief Officer.
Revocation of shotgun certificate Section 30(C)(1)
The chief officer of police may revoke a shotgun certificate if they are satisfied that the holder cannot be permitted to possess a shotgun without danger to public safety or to the peace (Section 30(C)(1) Firearms Act 1968). Reasons should be given. Section 30(C)(2) of the 1968 Act (as amended) provides for a right of appeal against the decision to revoke.
Revocation of shotgun certificate Sector 30(A)(2)
The Chief Officer of police may revoke a firearms certificate under Section 30A(2) of the 1968 Act if he has reason to believe: (a) that the holder is of intemperate habits or unsound mind or is otherwise unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm; or (b) that the holder can no longer be permitted to have a firearm or ammunition to which the certificate relates in his possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace”.
Being of intemperate habits simply means having a lack of self control. Usually, it will be a pattern of behaviour that causes concern but there may also be cases where one-off incidents will bring into question the fitness/unsuitability of somebody to possess firearms.
The term ‘unsound mind’ appears in section 30A of the Firearms Act 1968 as part of the test for revoking firearms certificates.
At risk are those exhibiting signs of serious depression, suicidal tendencies or longstanding or intermitted periods of emotional instability or unpredictable behaviour. This will include persons who have been detained under the civil powers in Part 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983 where it is necessary for the health and safety of the person or for the protection of other people. Particular attention will be paid to anyone who has previously been subject to a hospital order, guardianship order or restriction order under the provisions of Part 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 following the commission of offences.
Those in possession of firearms or shotgun certificates will have an encoded reminder on their GP’s records enabling the GP to contact the police if any issues surrounding the mental health of the holder arise. It is likely for this reason that firearms certificate holders in common with airline pilots are reluctant to seek help for their mental health issues.
Firearm and Shotgun certificates have been revoked for numerous reasons including but not limited to:
- Breach of the conditions of the shotgun certificates
- A lapse in shotgun security i.e. leaving gun out of cabinet, firing in dangerous circumstances.
- A relevant criminal conviction which can include drink driving (a car might be equated with a lethal weapon that has been misused
- Conduct not resulting in a criminal conviction where the appropriate tests for prosecution have been met but where there is some evidence i.e. assertions of domestic violence
- Certain reprehensible behaviours displayed by those sharing the same household as the certificate holder.
- Mental health issues
- Drug/alcohol misuse