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Firearm Offences

Offences relating to firearms. Jump to: -

Firearms Act 1968, s.1

Requirement of Firearm Certificate

(1) Subject to any exemption under this Act, it is an offence for a person -

(a) to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, a firearm to which this section applies without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate;

(b) to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, any ammunition to which this section applies without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or, otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate, or in quantities in excess of those so authorised.

(3) This section applies to every firearm except -

(a) a shot gun within the meaning of this Act, that is to say a smooth-bore gun (not being an air gun) which -

(i) has a barrel not less than 24 inches in length and does not have any barrel with a bore exceeding 2 inches in diameter;

(ii) either has no magazine or has a non-detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges; and

(iii) is not a revolver gun; and

(b) an air weapon (that is to say, an air rifle, air gun or air pistol which does not fall within section 5(1) and which is not of a type declared by rules made by the Secretary of State under section 53 of this Act to be specially dangerous).

(3A) A gun which has been adapted to have such a magazine as is mentioned in subsection (3)(a)(ii) above shall not be regarded as falling within that provision unless the magazine bears a mark approved by the Secretary of State for denoting the fact and that mark has been made, and the adaptation has been certified in writing as having been carried out in a manner approved by him, either by one of the two companies mentioned in section 58(1) of this Act or by such other person as may be approved by him for that purpose.

(4) This section applies to any ammunition for a firearm, except the following articles, namely: -

(a) cartridges containing five or more shot, none of which exceeds .36 inch in diameter;

(b) ammunition for an air gun, air rifle or air pistol; and

(c) blank cartridges not more than one inch in diameter measured immediately in front of the rim or cannelure of the base of the cartridge.

Class of offence and mode of trial

This offence is a class 3 offence, ante, 2-17, and is triable either way: 1968 Act, s.51 and Sched. 6.

Possession

Section 1 creates absolute offences. In R. v. Hussain,72 if the prosecution prove that the defendant knowingly had in his possession an article which in fact was a firearm as defined in the 1968 Act then the offence is committed, and the defendant's ignorance that the article in his possession was a firearm for which a certificate was required is immaterial. Hussain ([1981].

The purpose of section 1 is to regulate and license not only those who keep firearms where they live but also those who have them under their control; for example, where an owner keeps his firearm(s) at the home of a relative for safe custody. An owner might not have physical possession of the firearms, but may still possess them for the purposes of section:

(Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969 rr.2, 3

(1) Subject to paragraph (2) below, rule 3 of these Rules applies to an air weapon (that is to say, an air rifle, air gun or air pistol) -

(a) which is capable of discharging a missile so that the missile has, on being discharged from the muzzle of the weapon, kinetic energy in excess, in the case of an air pistol, of 6ft. 1b, or, in the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol, of 12ft. 1b., or

(b) which is disguised as another object.

(2) Rule 3 of these Rules does not apply to a weapon which only falls within paragraph 1(a) above and which is designed for use only when submerged in water.

(3) An air weapon to which this Rule applies is hereby declared to be specially dangerous.

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Firearms Act 1968, s.2

Shotguns

(1) Subject to any exemption under this Act, it is an offence for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, a shotgun without holding a certificate under this Act authorising him to possess shot guns.

Sentence

On summary conviction, six months (increased to 12 months, as from a day to be appointed, by the CJA 2003, s.282(2) and (3), but not in relation to any offence committed before the date of commencement: ibid., s.282(4)), or a fine of the prescribed sum, or both. On indictment, five years, or a fine, or both: 1968 Act, s.51 and Sched. 6.

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Firearms Act 1968, s.3

Dealing in Firearms

(1) A person commits an offence if, by way of trade or business, he -

(a) manufactures, sells, transfers, repairs, tests or proves any firearm or ammunition to which section 1 of this Act applies, or a shot gun;

(b) exposes for sale or transfer, or has in his possession for sale, transfer, repair, test or proof any such firearm or ammunition, or a shot gun, or

(c) sells or transfers an air weapon, exposes such a weapon for sale or transfer or has such a weapon in his possession for sale or transfer, without being registered under this Act as a firearms dealer.

(2) It is an offence for a person to sell or transfer to any other person in the United Kingdom, other than a registered firearms dealer, any firearm or ammunition to which section 1 of this Act applies, or a shot gun, unless that other produces a firearm certificate authorising him to purchase or acquire it or, as the case may be, his shot gun certificate, or shows that he is by virtue of this Act entitled to purchase or acquire it without holding a certificate.

(3) It is an offence for a person to undertake the repair, test or proof of a firearm or ammunition to which section 1 of this Act applies, or of a shot gun, for any other person in the United Kingdom other than a registered firearms dealer as such unless that other produces or causes to be produced a firearm certificate authorising him to have possession of the firearm or ammunition or, as the case may be, his shot gun certificate, or shows that he is by virtue of this Act entitled to have possession of it without holding a certificate.

(4) Subsections (1) to (3) above have effect subject to any exemption under subsequent provisions of this Part of this Act.

(5) A person commits an offence if, with a view to purchasing or acquiring, or procuring the repair, test or proof of, any firearm or ammunition to which section 1 of this Act applies, or a shot gun, he produces a false certificate or a certificate in which any false entry has been made, or personates a person to whom a certificate has been granted, or knowingly or recklessly makes a statement false in any material particular.

As to the meaning of "sells", see DPP v. Holmes,The Times, April 7, 1988, DC, a case on the Copyright Act 1956, s.21(1)(b); as to "transfer", see Hall v. Cotton and Treadwell[1987] Q.B. 504,83 Cr.App.R. 257, DC, post, 24-88; as to subsection (2) generally, see Wilson v. Coombe[1989] 1 W.L.R. 78, DC.

Sentence

On summary conviction, six months (increased to 12 months, as from a day to be appointed, by the CJA 2003, s.282(2) and (3), but not in relation to any offence committed before the date of commencement: ibid., s.282(4)), or a fine of the prescribed sum, or both. On indictment, five years, or a fine, or both: 1968 Act, s.51 and Sched. 6.

Nature of offence

The offence under section 3(2) is an absolute offence in that the transferee's intended use of the firearm and the transferor's understanding of that use are both irrelevant. The test is objective, namely whether the firearm in question corresponds with the description relied on in any certificate produced by the transferee: R. v. Paul (Benjamin)[1999] Crim.L.R. 79, CA (see ante, 24-6a, and post, 24-87).

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Firearms Act 1968, s.4

Conversion of weapons

(1) Subject to this section, it is an offence to shorten the barrel of a shot gun to a length less than 24 inches.

(2) It is not an offence under subsection (1) above for a registered firearms dealer to shorten the barrel of a shot gun for the sole purpose of replacing a defective part of the barrel so as to produce a barrel not less than 24 inches in length.

(3) It is an offence for a person other than a registered firearms dealer to convert into a firearm anything which, though having the appearance of being a firearm, is so constructed as to be incapable of discharging any missile through its barrel.

(4) A person who commits an offence under section 1 of this Act by having in his possession, or purchasing or acquiring, a shot gun which has been shortened contrary to subsection (1) above or a firearm which has been converted as mentioned in subsection (3) above (whether by a registered firearms dealer or not), without holding a firearm certificate authorising him to have it in his possession, or to purchase or acquire it, shall be treated for the purposes of provisions of this Act relating to the punishment of offences as committing that offence in an aggravated form.


Sentence

On summary conviction for the offences created by section 4(1) and (3), six months (increased to 12 months, as from a day to be appointed, by the CJA 2003, s.282(2) and (3), but not in relation to any offence committed before the date of commencement: ibid., s.282(4)), or a fine of the prescribed sum, or both. On indictment, seven years, or a fine, or both: 1968 Act, s.51 and Sched. 6.

For sentencing guidance, see R. v. Avis (Tony)[1998] 1 Cr.App.R. 420, CA, post, 24-82a.

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Firearms Act 1968, s.5

Prohibited weapons and ammunition

(1) A person commits an offence if, without the authority of the Defence Council, he has in his possession, or purchases or acquires, or manufactures, sells or transfers -

(a) any firearm which is so designed or adapted that two or more missiles can be successively discharged without repeated pressure on the trigger;

(ab) any self-loading or pump-action rifled gun other than one which is chambered for .22 rim-fire cartridges;

(aba) any firearm which either has a barrel less than 30 centimetres in length or is less than 60 centimetres in length overall, other than an air weapon, a muzzle-loading gun or a firearm designed as signalling apparatus;

(ac) any self-loading or pump-action smooth-bore gun which is not an air weapon or chambered for .22 rim-fire cartridges and either has a barrel less than 24 inches in length or is less than 40 inches in length overall;

(ad) any smooth-bore revolver gun other than one which is chambered for 9mm rim-fire cartridges or a muzzle-loading gun;

(ae) any rocket launcher, or any mortar, for projecting a stabilised missile, other than a launcher or mortar designed for line-throwing or pyrotechnic purposes or as signalling apparatus;

(af) any air rifle, air gun or air pistol which uses, or is designed or adapted for use with, a self-contained gas cartridge system;

(b) any weapon of whatever description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing; and

(c) any cartridge with a bullet designed to explode on or immediately before impact, any ammunition containing or designed or adapted to contain any such noxious thing as is mentioned in paragraph (b) above and, if capable of being used with a firearm of any description, any grenade, bomb (or other like missile), or rocket or shell designed to explode as aforesaid.

(1A) Subject to section 5A of this Act, a person commits an offence if, without the authority of the Secretary of State, he has in his possession, or purchases or acquires, or sells or transfers -

(a) any firearm which is disguised as another object;

(b) any rocket or ammunition not falling within paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section which consists in or incorporates a missile designed to explode on or immediately before impact and is for military use;

(c) any launcher or other projecting apparatus not falling with paragraph (ae) of that subsection which is designed to be used with any rocket or ammunition falling within paragraph (b) above or with ammunition which would fall within that paragraph but for its being ammunition falling within paragraph (c) of that subsection;

(d) any ammunition for military use which consists in or incorporates a missile designed so that a substance contained in the missile will ignite on or immediately before impact;

(e) any ammunition for military use which consists in or incorporates a missile designed, on account of its having a jacket and hard-core, to penetrate armour plating, armour screening or body armour;

(f) any ammunition which incorporates a missile designed or adapted to expand on impact;

(g) anything which is designed to be projected as a missile from any weapon and is designed to be, or has been, incorporated in -

(i) any ammunition falling within any of the preceding paragraphs; or

(ii) any ammunition which would fall within any of those paragraphs but for its being specified in subsection (1) of this section.

(2) The weapons and ammunition specified in subsections (1) and (1A) of this section (including, in the case of ammunition, any missiles falling within subsection (1A)(g) of this section) are referred to in this Act as "prohibited weapons" and "prohibited ammunition" respectively.

(7) For the purposes of this section and section 5A of this Act -

(a) any rocket or ammunition which is designed to be capable of being used with a military weapon shall be taken to be for military use;

(b) references to a missile designed so that a substance contained in the missile will ignite or immediately before impact include references to any missile containing a substance that ignites on exposure to air; and

(c) references to a missile's expanding on impact include references to its deforming in any predictable manner on or immediately after impact.

(8) For the purposes of subsection (1)(aba) and (ac) above, any detachable, folding, retractable or other movable butt-stock shall be disregarded in measuring the length of any firearm.

(9) Any reference in this section to a muzzle-loading gun is a reference to a gun which is designed to be loaded at the muzzle end of the barrel or chamber with a loose charge and a separate ball (or other missile).

[This section is printed as amended and repealed in part by the 1988 Act, s.1(2), (3); the Firearms Acts (Amendment) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992 No. 2823), reg. 3; the 1997 Act, ss.1, 9 and 52, and Sched. 3, although the amendment effected by section 1(3) of that Act (substituting "rifled gun" for "rifle" in subs. (1)(ab)) does not have effect in relation to weapons prohibited by section 5(1)(aba) (Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (Commencement) (No. 2) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997 No. 1535), art. 5); the 1997 (No. 2) Act, ss.1 and 2(7) and Sched.; and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, s.39(3) (insertion of subs. (1)(af) - in force with effect from January 20, 2004, in so far as it relates to the purchase, acquisition, manufacture, sale or transfer of the prohibited weapon, and from April 30, 2004, for all other purposes (Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (Commencement No. 1 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2003 (S.I. 2003 No. 3300

The insertion of section 5(1)(af), ante, into the 1968 Act, is subject to the 2003 Act, s.39(4) and (5) (in force as of January 20, 2004 (S.I. 2003 No. 3300, ante)). As to the transitional regime, see R. v. Mehmet (Mustafa)[2006] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 75, CA, where it appears that the effect of subsections (4) and (5) may have been overlooked.

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Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, s.39(4), (5)

(4) If at the time when subsection (3) comes into force a person has in his possession an air rifle, air gun or air pistol of the kind described in section 5(1)(af) of the Firearms Act 1968 (inserted by subsection (3) above) -

(a) section 5(1) of that Act shall not prevent the person's continued possession of the air rifle, air gun or air pistol,

(b) section 1 of that Act (text) shall apply, and

(c) a chief officer of police may not refuse to grant or renew, and may not revoke or partially revoke, a firearm certificate under Part II of that Act on the ground that the person does not have a good reason for having the air rifle, air gun or air pistol in his possession.

(5) But subsection (4)(a) to (c) shall not apply to possession in the circumstances described in section 8 of that Act (authorised dealing).

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Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, ss.2-8

2. Slaughtering instruments

The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act -

(a) for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, or to sell or transfer, a slaughtering instrument if he is authorised by a firearm certificate to have the instrument in his possession, or to purchase or acquire it;

(b) for a person to have a slaughtering instrument in his possession if he is entitled, under section 10 of the 1968 Act, to have it in his possession without a firearm certificate.

3. Firearms used for humane killing of animals

The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, or to sell or transfer, a firearm if he is authorised by a firearm certificate to have the firearm in his possession, or to purchase or acquire it, subject to a condition that it is only for use in connection with the humane killing of animals.

4. Shot pistols used for killing vermin

(1) The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, or to sell or transfer, a shot pistol if he is authorised by a firearm certificate to have the shot pistol in his possession, or to purchase or acquire it, subject to a condition that it is only for use in connection with the shooting of vermin.

(2) For the purposes of this section, "shot pistol" means a smooth-bored gun which is chambered for .410 cartridges or 9mm rim-fire cartridges.

5. Races at athletic meetings

The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act -

(a) for a person to have a firearm in his possession at an athletic meeting for the purpose of starting races at that meeting; or

(b) for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, or to sell or transfer, a firearm if he is authorised by a firearm certificate to have the firearm in his possession, or to purchase or acquire it, subject to a condition that it is only for use in connection with starting races at athletic meetings.

6. Trophies of war

The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession a firearm which was acquired as a trophy of war before 1st January 1946 if he is authorised by a firearm certificate to have it in his possession.

7. Firearms of historic interest

(1) The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, or to sell or transfer, a firearm which -

(a) was manufactured before 1st January 1919; and

(b) is of a description specified under subsection (2) below,

if he is authorised by a firearm certificate to have the firearm in his possession, or to purchase or acquire it, subject to a condition that he does so only for the purpose of its being kept or exhibited as part of a collection.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument specify a description of firearm for the purposes of subsection (1) above if it appears to him that -

(a) firearms of that description were manufactured before 1st January 1919; and

(b) ammunition for firearms of that type is not readily available.

(3) The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, or to sell or transfer, a firearm which -

(a) is of particular rarity, aesthetic quality or technical interest, or

(b) is of historical importance,

if he is authorised by a firearm certificate to have the firearm in his possession subject to a condition requiring it to be kept and used only at a place designated for the purposes of this subsection by the Secretary of State.

(4) This section has effect without prejudice to section 58(2) of the 1968 Act (antique firearms).

The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (Firearms of Historic Interest) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997 No. 1537) has been made under section 7(2).

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