WHAT IS A FIREARMS CERTIFICATE AND DO I NEED ONE?
What is a Firearm Certificate?
For many Smallbore target rifle shooters a time will come when they want to own their own rifle. The reasons for this could be club kit becoming unavailable, the hassle of sharing kit becomes too much or simply the desire to own a new rifle. A rifle cannot be purchased without an official firearms licence and this involves a formal application process that is managed by the police. You must be aged 17 years or older to be granted a firearm certificate in your own name. A firearm certificate may be granted to a person aged between 14 and 17 years of age (if they meet the required criterea), but they may not themselves purchase any guns or ammunition. No person under 14 may be granted a firearm certificate, or use firearms other than on an approved range or shooting gallery.
Do you need a Firearm Certificate?
Do you really need a Firearms Certificate (FAC)? If you are starting out at Smallbore target rifle shooting you may not need to rush out and buy a rifle straight away, your local club probably has a number of rifles which are available for use by club members and 'first timers' which you can use without possessing your own FAC. This provides an easy way for you to try out the sport without the need to go through the FAC process.
If, however, you wish to own your own rifle and buy ammunition, you must (by law) have applied for and been granted a Firearms Certificate (FAC). This process is controlled by the police force in your local area. There are a number of criteria that need to be met before HM government will legally allow you to possess a firearm. The full Firearms Act is a quite a lot to take in and so the best advice to any new FAC applicant is to ask existing club members for advice, and speak to the police firearms department in your area before filling out the application form. The information provided here is purely guidance, designed to give people a basic idea of what to do if they want to apply for an FAC and is not a comprehensive guide to successfully applying for an FAC.
1) Demonstrate requirement for an FAC - you need to show that you have a reasonable reason to own and use a rifle. Being a member of a registered rifle club is a suitable reason, but this must be proved with a letter of confirmation signed by a registered club secretary - most clubs will also require you to be a probationary member for a set period of time (a few months) before they will provide a letter - this is because they are putting their own reputation on the line by vouching for you
2) Provide references - The Firearms Acts require an applicant for the grant or renewal of a firearm certificate to supply the names and addresses of two people who have agreed to act as referees. There are a lot of conditions around who can and cannot be a referees, details of which can be found on the FAC application form. The referees will be asked to complete a questionnaire about you and return it directly to the police (so that you cannot see what they have written).
3) Storage of your rifle - if you are applying for an FAC the general purpose of it is so that you can purchase your own rifle (more on that further on). The rifle you own needs to be stored somewhere secure, but where? The application for an FAC includes a check of the storage facilities you have by the police. Some clubs will allow members to store rifles in the club armoury - but always ask your club before applying for your FAC and do not expect to get a space, clubs can only hold a certain number of rifles.
If you do wish to keep your rifle in your own home. You will need a proper gun cabinet/safe, it must be at least 16 swg steel, fixed (coach bolted) to a solid wall and or floor inside your home and not be visible or easily accessible to intruders. You will also need a separate safe for your ammunition and bolt.