Firearms Control - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Mr Bob Meadows


1.1   Currently police forces manage the issue, variation and renewal of both Firearms Certificates and Shotgun Certificates, with different processes and costs that do not reflect the actual expenses incurred by the force. This submission recommends:

The abolition of the Shotgun Certificate and migration of shotguns onto a single Firearms Certificate to authorise Section 1[1] and Section 2 firearms.

Increased application charges to reflect actual costs.

Application fee increases reviewed every five years, to reflect actual cost increases/decreases.

Introduction of a "good reason" to hold a shotgun.

The commissioning of a new Home Office Guidance to the Police (based upon the 2002 version).

1.2  These changes will facilitate police forces around the country to recover their costs, caused by the firearms and shotgun licensing process and introduce a sensible control on the ability for any member of the public to have a shotgun.


2.1  Certificates in General

2.1.1  Firearms Certificates (FACs) and Shotgun Certificates (SGCs) are granted by police forces on submission and approval of an appropriate application form, references, fees and a visit to review the application and inspect security.

2.1.2  Five years after the initial grant of a certificate, a renewal process must be undertaken to confirm the current status of the grantee, re-check currently held firearms and storage facility.

2.1.3  The renewal process involves a physical visit from a Firearms Enquiry Officer (FEO), who holds the interview at the applicant's premises for storage.

2.1.4  The role of the police is not to restrict the granting of authorities, but to ensure appropriate checks are made according to the statutory laws, rules and guidance.

2.2  The Shotgun Certificate (SGC)

2.2.1  The SGC can be applied for by any person (who is not a prohibited person) and can obtain two referees that have known them for two or more years. On being granted a SGC, that person can purchase Section 2 shotguns and ammunition, as they please.

2.2.2  There is no need to provide a good reason for having a shotgun, although Police Firearms Enquiry Officers (FEOs) will no doubt ask.

2.2.3  SGCs are presented to a seller of a Section 2 Shotgun and/or ammunition, when any transaction regarding those items is undertaken.

2.2.4  The seller/transferor/lender of a Section 2 shotgun will add the item to the new holder's certificate.

2.2.5  Section 2 ammunition only needs the SGC shown to the seller or transferor, to confirm its existence and validity.

2.3  The Firearms Certificate (FAC)

2.3.1  The FAC can be applied for by any person who is of an appropriate age, who is not a prohibited person, has a valid reason and can find two referees that have known them for two or more years.

2.3.2  An FAC permits an approved person to hold Section 1 firearm and/or ammunition, which may include shotguns and shotgun ammunition that do not fall within Section 2 of the 1968 Act (as amended).

2.3.3  An FAC is presented to a seller/transferrer/lender of a Section 1 Firearms and/or ammunition, when any transaction regarding those items is undertaken.

2.3.4  The seller/transferrer/lender of a Section 1 Firearm will add the item(s) to the new holder's certificate, only if an authority has been granted for that calibre and type of weapon or ammunition.

2.3.5  Section 1 ammunition purchase/transfer needs the FAC to be given to the seller, transferor or lender, to:

Allow purchase volume to be checked.

To have the ammunition transfer added to the FAC.

To confirm the FACs existence and validity.

2.4  Registered Firearms Dealer Certificates

2.4.1  Any person or company that wishes to trade in firearms, shotguns, air weapons or ammunition, must be registered to do so. That authority is known as a Registered Firearms Dealer Certificate (RFD).

2.4.2  An RFD lasts for three years and is applied for in a similar way to a FAC.

2.4.3  To obtain authority to trade as an RFD, the applicant must have:

Be an appropriate person.

Be able to demonstrate the fulfilling of a public need.

Be able to demonstrate a business plan.

Have a suitable storage area and appropriate security for any firearms.

2.4.4  FEOs can call upon the services of the force Safety Officer to provide expert advice on secure storage areas used by RFDs.

2.5  Visitor Certificates

2.5.1  Visitor Certificates are issued by the local force for temporary visitors to the United Kingdom, to allow them to bring in firearms for use in the local area.

2.5.2  Visitors Certificates between for between six and 20 persons (applied for at the same time) currently attract a single maximum charge, whatever the total number of visitors being applied for.


3.1  Cost of Processing

3.1.1  Currently, forces are not recovering the cost of processing requests for Firearms and Shotgun related licensing, as charges were last set in 2001[2].

3.1.2  Bedfordshire Police have analysed their costs and believe the 2010 cost to grant a Firearms Certificate is more like £130 per new application (see table below).

Table 1


DescriptionCharge to Applicant Actual Est. Processing Cost
Firearms Certificate
Application and Grant of FAC£50 £130
Renewal of FAC£40 £130
One-for-one Variation of FAC£0 £25
Variation of FAC£26 £50
Registered Firearms Dealer
Application and Grant of Full RFD£150 £500
Temporary Transfer-in Full RFD£12 £50
Renewal of Full RFD£150 £500
Registered Firearms Air Weapons Only Dealer
Application and Grant of Air Weapons Only RFD £150£250
Renewal of Air Weapons only RFD£150 £250
Temporary Transfer-in for Air Weapons only RFD £12£50
Visitors Permit[3]
Application and Grant of single Visitors Permit £12£25
Application and Grant of 6+ Visitors Permits £60See individual rate

3.2  Cost to Applicant

3.2.1  Firearms users have not experienced any increase in charges for their certification, since 2000.

3.2.2  Even in 2000, the charges generated were in no way representative of the actual cost to forces processing the applications.

3.2.3  The current £50 charge for a FAC or SGC equates to circa £10 per annum, 20p per week or 3p per day for the facility.

3.2.4  Applicants are asked to renew their licenses every five years for SGC/FAC holders and every 3 years for RFD holders.

3.2.5  Applicants who and not granted their applications, currently have their fees returned.

3.3  Multiple Applications and Certificates

3.3.1  If an applicant is granted both an FAC and SGC, the SGC is currently discounted by 80%, as much of the processing can be done at the same time. This discounting is granted if the SGC is coterminous with the FAC.

3.3.2  Both certificates must be synchronised in validity, to enable renewal processing to be reduced in cost.

3.3.3  If an FAC holder wishes to purchase a Section 2 Shotgun, this cannot be done without a SGC being applied for, authorised and issued. An FAC holder could, alternatively to vary their FAC to allow the purchase of a Section 1 shotgun at renewal time for no charge.

3.4  Variations

3.4.1  When a holder of an FAC wants to purchase an additional firearm, this must be pre-authorised through the Variation process by the Firearms Licensing Manager, ensuring it is appropriate to be purchased and stored.

3.4.2  Any Variation of an FAC is a chargeable event, unless one of the following is true:

It is done at certificate renewal time.

An existing firearm has recently been disposed of and an application has been approved to retain that authorisation.

A firearm of that type and calibre has already been authorised to be acquired.

3.4.3  Shotguns are not currently limited by number on an SGC.

3.4.4  Most FAC Variations can be done without an FEO visit.

3.5  Good Reason

3.5.1  The application for a SGC does not currently have to demonstrate "good reason" for wanting a shotgun.

3.5.2  Good Reason might include:

Shooting vermin, game etc. on land over which the application has gained and can demonstrate authority.

Clay Pigeon Shooting at a Home Office Approved or Affiliate to an appropriate National organisation.

Professional use in the course of their employment.

3.6  Notification of Transfers

3.6.1  Currently, notifications of transfers are mainly done by fax or post. This requires multiple keying of data and does not take advantage of an electronic notification process.

3.6.2  Both the Transferor and Transferee currently notify police forces.

3.7  Section 1 Shotguns and Police Officers

3.7.1  If a Police Officer stops a certificate holder with a Section 1 Shotgun, the officer probably has no idea whether the item is Section 1 or Section 2, thus no idea whether the holder needs an FAC or SGC.

3.8  Home Office Guidance

3.8.1  The 2002 issued document "Firearms Law—Guidance to the Police" is a useful document for both the Police and certificate holders.

3.8.2  This Home Office guidance is outdated and would benefit from being refreshed.


4.1  Implement a single Firearms Certificate (FAC)

4.1.1  Implement a single Firearms Certificate to replace the current SGC and FAC. The concept of co-terminus certificates would be unnecessary.

4.1.2  All firearms and shotguns would be listed on the new FAC, as would authorisations of ammunition to be purchased and held.

4.1.3  Shotguns should be treated like firearms and have authority to acquire for shotguns to be purchased on the certificate.

4.1.4  As a shotgun is disposed of, an authority to acquire could be opened (if requested) through a one-for-one variation process. This is common in the current FAC environment.)

4.1.5  Firearms Enquiry Officers (FEOs) could recommend an appropriate level of shotguns that would be able to be securely held, after the visit to the firearm storage location.

4.2  Implement a new RFD-AIR (RFD-Air)

4.2.1  Implement a new form of RFD, which only allows the holder to deal in Air Weapons, thus has reduced security requirements.

4.2.2  Charges for initial grant and renewal of an RFD-Air would be reduced from a full RFD.

4.3  One for One Variations become chargeable

4.3.1  Introduce a charge for one-for-one variations, due to the administration being caused in the Firearms License Management Department.

4.3.2  One for One variation requests should be allowed within 30 days of the disposal of a shotgun or firearm.

4.4  Remove the multiple Visitor Permit charge

4.4.1  Introduce a single charge level for Visitor Permit issue, which is in direct proportion to the number of Visitor Permits required. For example for 10 permits, 10 times the single permit charge would be required.

4.5  Introduce the requirement for having good reason for owning a Shotgun

4.5.1  No longer will it be permissible to have a shotgun, without having good reason.

4.5.2  Good reason would be demonstrated by the same criteria as current FAC holders have to provide, such as Game/Vermin, Target shooting at an approved venue/club or professional use (e.g. employment).

4.6  Align minimum ages for Firearms and Shotguns

4.6.1  By re-aligning shotguns as Section 1 Firearms, all the current restrictions of ages for firearms holders will apply to shotgun holders.

4.6.2  This avoids the need for Firearms Licensing Departments having to make judgement calls of young people, such as 10 year olds.

4.7  Increase charges to cover costs

4.7.1  Charges for FACs and RFDs should be increased as follows:

Table 2


DescriptionCurrent Charge to Applicant Proposed New Charge to Application
Firearms Certificate
Application and Grant of FAC£50 £150
Renewal of FAC£40 £150
One-for-one Variation of FAC£0 £25
Variation of FAC£26 £50
Registered Firearms Dealer
Application and Grant of Full RFD£150 £500
Temporary Transfer-in Full RFD£12 £50
Renewal of Full RFD£150 £500
Registered Firearms Air Weapons Only Dealer
Application and Grant of Air Weapons Only RFD £150£250
Renewal of Air Weapons only RFD£150 £250
Temporary Transfer-in for Air Weapons only RFD £150£50
Visitors Permit
Application and Grant of single Visitors Permit £12£25
Application and Grant of 6+ Visitors Permits £60Charged at Individual Rate

4.7.2  Following the submission of an Application for Grant/Renewal/Variation, no refund will be allowed, once the application is received.

4.8  Migrate towards an online smartcard based service

4.8.1  Through the replacement of the paper-based FAC system which is currently in place, with a smartcard based system, RFD holders could perform checks and transactions on-line and save the multiple keying of information by users and Firearms Licensing Departments.

4.8.2  Smartcards could be dynamically updated, when read to perform RFD transactions, from both the current transactions and any previous manual transactions that had been updated centrally.

4.8.3  The need to send paper copies of transactions to RFD and FAC licensing departments would be removed, as both the smartcard and central database would be synchronised each time an FAC smartcard was connected at and RFD location.

4.9  Implement a requirement for Public Liability

4.9.1  Users of Firearms and shotguns generally belong to clubs and associations that provide 3rd party liability, providing them cover in the event of an accident.

4.9.2  Evidence of this insurance should be a requirement at application, renewal and variation to demonstrate protection of the general public in the event of any incident.

4.10  Commission the update for the Home Office Guidance

4.10.1  Request the updating of the 2002 issued document "Firearms Law—Guidance to the Police".

4.10.2  The update would provide suitable guidance, based upon the statutory changes since 2002 and consequences of this Inquiry.


5.1  The opportunity to rationalise the firearms license management into a single stream system should be taken advantage of, at this time of change.

5.2  The additional opportunity to re-align charges for issue/renewal/variation of Firearm Certificates, Registered Firearms Dealer authority and Visitor's Permits is proportional and a realistic reflection of the increase in costs since the last fee change in 1988 and 2000 respectively.

5.3  Without these increases in charges, Firearms Licensing Departments will continue to be "cost centres", whereas they should be "cost neutral" services.

5.4  Charges for FACs are proposed, which will increase charges from 3p per day to 9p per day. This is a proportionally realistic charge for the facility to hold firearms.

5.5  Charges for RFDs are also proportionately increased, with a request for a new type of RFD, for air weapons only.

29 July 2010

1   1968 Firearms Act (as amended). Back

2   Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 2000. Back

3   Visitors Permit Fees have not been changed since the 1988 Firearms (Amendment) Act (Section 17.8). Back

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