Firearms law changes (England, Wales and Scotland)

What are the changes?

These will take effect on 12 December 2019 and introduce changes to the controls on firearms relating to:

  • Responsibility for secure storage arrangements in relation to certificate holders under the age of 18.
  • The particulars to be entered by firearms dealers into their register of transactions in order to reflect new marking requirements for firearms and essential component parts.

A separate note explaining the effect of the changes in Northern Ireland will be issued by the Department of Justice.

Why are these changes being made?

These changes are being made in order to implement the requirements of Directive (EU) 2017/853 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017 amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons.

The UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force.

Arrangements for the storage of firearms held on a certificate by under 18s

Where a firearm or shotgun certificate holder is under the age of 18, UK law now requires arrangements to be made for a person aged 18 or over to assume responsibility for the secure storage of the firearms and ammunition held on the young person’s certificate.

The person assuming responsibility must be either the certificate holder’s parent or guardian or a person aged 18 or over who is authorised to have possession of such firearms and ammunition. It may not always be necessary for the parent or guardian to also have a firearms certificate if arrangements are made for the firearm to be secured in a cabinet with two separate locks which can only be opened when both key holders are present and one of the key holders is a certificate holder.

Police forces have decided that a condition on secure storage will be added to firearm certificates when an application for grant, variation or renewal is received. In the interim, forces will make their own arrangements for advising young people of the new storage arrangements and any changes which might be required.

Particulars to be entered in firearms dealer’s registers

The information to be recorded in dealers’ registers is set out below. This is in line with the marking requirements of the EU directive. The requirement for all essential component parts (as defined in section 57 of the Firearms Act 1968) to be marked is due to be brought into force by 17 January 2020 and will be the subject of a separate Home Office Circular.

Particulars to be entered into dealers’ registers:

(a) in the case of firearms (other than air weapons) manufactured before 14 September 2018 and firearms of historical importance:

(i) the class of firearms (eg shotgun, rifle, revolver or pistol)

(ii) the calibre

(iii) the name of the manufacturer or brand

(iv) the country or place of manufacture, if known

(v) the identification number (which may be the serial number) or other distinguishing mark, if present; and,

(aa) in the case of firearms (other than air weapons and firearms of historical importance) manufactured in the United Kingdom or anywhere in the European Union or imported from outside the European Union on or after 14 September 2018:

(i) the class of firearms (eg shotgun, rifle, revolver or pistol);

(ii) the calibre;

(iii) the unique marking affixed to each relevant component part, to include:

(aa) the name of the manufacturer or brand

(bb) the country or place of manufacture

(cc) the serial number and the year of manufacture (if not part of the serial number)

(dd) the model (where feasible)

(iv) where a relevant component part, other than the frame and the receiver, is too small to have a unique marking including all of the information set out in paragraph (iii)(aa) to (dd) above, the serial number or alphanumeric or digital code instead of that information should be recorded

(v) the batch number

Note: Any firearm manufactured before September 1939 will be regarded as being of historical importance.

Notification of transfer or possession of deactivated firearms

What is required?

The Firearms Regulations 2019 introduce new requirements regarding the possession and transfer of permanently deactivated firearms in accordance with the requirements of Directive (EU) 2017/853.

What is a deactivated firearm and do all types have to be notified?

“Deactivated firearm” means a firearm that has been deactivated in accordance with the technical specifications set out in the document published by the Secretary of State under section 8A(5) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 (controls on defectively deactivated weapons) which apply to that firearm.

The specification is published here

In practice this means only the following items are caught by the regulations:

  • Pistols (single shot, semi-automatic)
  • Revolvers (including cylinder loading revolvers)
  • Single-shot long firearms (not break action)
  • Break action firearms (e.g. smoothbore, rifled, combination, falling/rolling block action, short and long firearms)
  • Repeating long firearms (smoothbore, rifled)
  • Semi-automatic long firearms (smoothbore, rifled)
  • (Full) automatic firearms (e.g. selected assault rifles, (sub) machine guns, (full) automatic pistols)
  • Muzzle-loading firearms

Items not listed here fall outside the notification requirements e.g. flare guns, rocket launchers & mortars.

The regulations state that only those firearms deactivated on or after 14 September 2018 need to be notified. Firearms which were deactivated prior to 8 April 2016 are not covered by these provisions.

In practice this means that details of deactivated firearms acquired between 8 April 2016 (the date the EU technical specifications came into effect) and 14 September 2018, and which have remained unaltered ever since do not need to be notified to the appropriate national authority until 14 March 2021.

When is a notification of transfer required?

When someone transfers a deactivated firearm they are required to give notice of the transfer either before the transfer takes place or, as soon as reasonably practicable after the transfer – but only when the transfer is for a period of more than 14 days.

The notification of the transfer of a deactivated firearm only applies at present to those items acquired since 14 September 2018.

The person transferring the deactivated firearm should send the following information to the Home Office:

  • a description of the deactivated firearm which must include, if known, the make, calibre and serial number of the firearm
  • details of the name and address of the person giving notice
  • the person to whom the deactivated firearm has been, or will be, transferred.

When is a notification of possession required?

Notice must be given on or before the day on which the person first possesses the deactivated firearm or, as soon as reasonably practicable after that date. The notice must give a description of the deactivated firearm including, the make, calibre and serial number of the firearm and state the person’s name and address. There is no need to notify if the person is in possession of the deactivated firearm for a period of 14 days or less.

The notification of the possession of a deactivated firearm only applies at present to those items acquired since 14 September 2018.

How do I notify possession or transfer of a deactivated firearm?

Forms are provided for this purpose on GOV.UK.

The required information should then be submitted here.

or by post to:

Deactivated Firearms Notifications
Home Office
Serious Violence Unit
5th Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

It is an offence for a person to transfer a deactivated firearm and to have not given notice of the transfer.

A person commits an offence if they fail to notify the appropriate national authority of their possession of a relevant deactivated firearm. Unless the person who transferred it to them has already submitted a notification of the transfer to the current holder.

A person guilty of an offence under these Regulations is liable to a level 1 fine (£200).

Any questions or concerns you have regarding these changes to firearms laws please contact the dedicated BASC firearms team on 01244 573010.  

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