To be precise:
2013 No 2970
ARMS AND AMMUNITION
The Firearms (Amendment) (No2) Rules 2013
Commencement date 1 December 2013.
These rules amend the Firearms Rules, 1998. The rules prescribe the format of the various certificates issued under the Act and the forms for applying for them, so one way or another they’ve always been with us and usually a year behind the legislation. We had a 1968 Act, 1969 Rules, 1988 Act, 1989 Rules, 1997 Act (twice), 1998 Rules. There are some changes each time. The main change with effect from 1 December 2013 is that there is now only one form for firearm and shotgun certificate applications, grant or renewal. You fill in the relevant parts according to what you’re applying for, then get one referee if it’s for shotguns only, or two if it’s for firearms or both.
Condition 2 on firearm and shot gun certificates is also amended. The 1998 rule was at odds with the certificate template contained in the same rules and this amendment brings the two together. The 1998 rule says:
(ii) the holder of the certificate must inform the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted within seven days of the theft, loss or destruction in Great Britain of the certificate;
But the condition on the certificate reads:
2. The holder of this certificate must inform within seven days the chief officer of police by whom this certificate was granted of the theft, loss or destruction in Great Britain of this certificate and/or the theft, loss, deactivation or destruction of any firearms or ammunition to which it relates.
The new for 2013 rule reads, as a substitute for paragraph (4)(ii):
“the holder of the certificate must inform the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted within seven days of –
(a) the theft, loss, or destruction in Great Britain of the certificate;
(b) the theft, loss, deactivation or destruction in Great Britain of any firearm to which the certificate relates;
(c) the theft or loss in Great Britain of any ammunition to which this certificate relates.”
The condition on the new form of certificate reads:
2. The holder of this certificate must inform the chief officer of police by whom the certificate was granted within 7 days of the theft, loss or destruction in Great Britain of the certificate and/or the theft, loss, deactivation or destruction of any firearms and/or the theft or loss of ammunition to which this certificate relates.
So certificate holders no longer need to report deactivation or destruction of their ammunition to the police, thus saving the Home Office answering the open question as to whether consumption of ammunition was also destruction. Apart from that, it’s a tidying up.
What we don’t know is whether applications made before 1 December will get old style certificates as police slog through their backlogs, or whether everyone 1 December on will get the new condition, or whether the changeover will be when old stationery has been used up. You’ll have to read the printed conditions on your next certificate to see how it’s been handled.
‘Great Britain’ is referred to instead of the ‘United Kingdom’ so that anything going on in Northern Ireland relating to the peace process is nothing to do with the police, here or there.
We note, in passing, that ‘calibre’ is now ‘calibre metric or imperial’, so things will be as confusing as ever. ‘Calibre’ means the nominal diameter of the bullet, while most ammunition is known by a variation of their calibre, which is best thought of as a brand name. So .38 Special is a brand name; the calibre is .357in (groove) or .354in (land), the latter being 9mm in metric, and so on. In practice, most police forces have ignored ‘calibre’ for years in favour of what the cartridge is known as when you’re buying it.
There’s an interesting little nugget near the end of this new raft of rules, in an addition to the conditions on an auctioneer’s permit. An auctioneer is exempted from the need to hold a certificate for the possession of firearms and ammunition in the ordinary course of his business; likewise is a warehouseman or a carrier. The difference between the three is that auctioneers sell stuff, so while they can retain firearms on their exemption, to sell them they have to get a police permit, which sets in train the mechanism by which the police are notified of (a) what the auctioneers is going to sell, and (b) after the sale, to whom he sold it.
Condition 1 on an auctioneer’s permit states that it’s an offence to sell any firearm or ammunition to anyone other than a registered firearms dealer, any (controlled) firearms or ammunition unless the other person produces (as appropriate) a firearm certificate, a shot gun certificate or demonstrates an exemption from the need to hold one.
That’s been the case as far back as we go, but the 2006 Violent Crime Reduction Act created a number of anomalies, and condition 3 on the auctioneer’s permit reveals one of them:
3. Under section 3(1)(c) of the Firearms Act 1968, as amended by the section 31(1) of the Violent Crime Reduction Act, 2006, it is an offence for a person to sell or transfer to any person an air weapon other than a registered firearms dealer.
4. Under section 32 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act, the final hand over of air weapons must take place in person.
So the conflict is this: an ‘air weapon’ is a firearm within the meaning of section 57(1) of the 1968 Act, defined in section 1(3)(b) as an air rifle, air gun or air pistol not declared ‘especially dangerous’ by the Secretary of State. The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules, 1969 identify as ‘especially dangerous’ air rifles that generate more than 12 foot/pounds of muzzle energy and air pistols with more than 6 foot/pounds of push.
So under condition 1 on the auctioneer’s permit, one can demonstrate an exemption from the need to hold a certificate for a firearm (a low powered air gun) by being over 18 years old. However, condition 3 prevents the auctioneer selling a low powered air gun to anyone other than a registered firearms dealer, who, under condition 4, has to be present to receive it. That makes transactions involving air guns harder to complete than for ‘real’ ones. Good, eh.