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Firearms licensing law in the UK is based on the premise that firearms are dangerous weapons and, as such, the public should be protected from their misuse. Indeed, firearms licensing and the controls in place that surround ownership of a gun in the UK, are some of the tightest in the world. Having legal representation experienced in firearm licensing law on your side, to ensure that you are treated fairly, can make a real difference to the outcome of your case.
The Firearms Act 1968 describes a firearm as “a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged”.
This includes any prohibited weapon (whether it is such a lethal weapon or not), any component part of such a prohibited or lethal weapon and any accessory of such a weapon which has been designed or adapted in order to lessen the noise or flash caused as a result of firing the weapon.
Firearms licensing law in the UK is based on the premise that firearms are dangerous weapons and, as such, the public should be protected from their misuse. Indeed, firearms licensing and the controls in place that surround ownership of a gun in the UK, are some of the tightest in the world.
In the UK, owning a gun is not seen as a right, but rather as a privilege.
Firearms used for sports, such as clay pigeon shooting, hunting and target shooting, are permitted in the UK, as long as they have the correct firearms licensing (either a firearm certificate or shotgun certificate).
Firearms licensing does not include low powered air weapons in England and Wales, unless they fall under the ‘specially dangerous’ category in the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969. However, even though firearms licensing may not apply (subject to the aforementioned) there are restrictions on the sale of low powered air weapons.
Under the Firearms Act 1968, an air weapon is defined as:
“an air rifle, air gun or air pistol which does not fall within section 5 (1) (a) and which is not of a type declared by rules made by the Secretary of State under section 53 of the Firearms Act to be specially dangerous”.
If an air weapon is able to discharge a bullet (or a missile of any type) with kinetic energy of more than 6 foot lbs (for an air pistol) or 12 foot lbs (for all other air weapons), then it will be deemed to be ‘specially dangerous’ and may require firearms licensing (see above).
Anyone owning a gun classed a shotgun will need to possess a shotgun licence. Shotguns cannot be owned under a firearms licence. Anyone owning a different type of gun will need to have a firearms licence.
Both firearms licenses and shotgun licenses are valid for 5 years.
Firearms licensing in the UK is a matter of both intention and suitability of the individual who wants to possess a weapon. If the intention of the person wanting to keep a gun cannot be established by the authorities or the suitability of the person to own a gun cannot be determined, firearms licensing will not be granted.
Applications for firearms licensing can be done through the government website.
You will need to include the type of gun and ammunition you want to possess on your firearms licensing application.
You will also need to state where your ammunition and gun are going to be stored.
Having referees who have known you for a minimum of 2 years and are British residents is an essential part of the firearms licensing process. These people cannot be family members and cannot be employed by the police.
As part of the firearms licensing process, you will also need to grant permission for the police to contact your GP to ensure that you are of sound mind.
In order to be granted firearms licensing, the police must be satisfied that the person wanting to keep the weapon:
People who have been sentenced to 3 or more years in prison are not able to possess a firearm.
Anyone sentenced to a term of imprisonment of between 3 months to 3 years will be unable to apply for firearms licensing for 5 years after their release date.
The law surrounding firearms in the UK can be highly complex. There are a range of firearms offences, including illegal possession of a firearm and unlawfully wounding others with a firearm.
If you have been accused of a firearm offence, whether it involves anything from firearms licensing to criminal use of a firearm, it is vital that you seek legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in firearms law as soon as possible. Firearms offences can carry lengthy prison sentences and seeking expert legal advice as early on as possible in the proceedings, can help to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome for your circumstances.
A solicitor specialising in firearms licensing can work with you to try to retain your firearms licensing, if the circumstances allow.
Firearms offences are serious and can result in lengthy prison sentences for those convicted. Some offences can even result in life imprisonment. For example, under Section 16 of the Firearms Act 1968 it is an offence to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life. Convictions for this offence can result in a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
If someone possesses a weapon and does not have the necessary firearms licensing for it, the mandatory minimum sentence for adults is 5 years in prison.
When deciding a suitable sentence for a firearms offence, factors such as the type of firearm, whether it was loaded and whether it has been adapted, will be taken into account.
Aggravating factors, such as previous criminal convictions and whether illegal firearms have been used in other criminal convictions, can increase the seriousness of the offence.
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