When the cops come calling
BASC’s firearm team is responsible for advising members on firearm issues. Firearms officer Simon Vann looks at the contentious subject of removal of firearms by the police and the legal requirements that they must meet.
The term ‘seized’ is often misused by officers when attending certificate holders’ addresses. It implies that the certificate holder has no option other than to comply, however, that is not the case as the possession and certification of firearms is controlled by legislation.
For the police to legally remove guns from a certificate holder one the following must apply;
- Voluntary surrender – In many cases it would be appropriate to ask a certificate holder for a voluntary surrender in order to facilitate an enquiry. The guns can then be removed to police storage or an alternative such as a Registered Firearms Dealer. The police will also ask for your certificates.
- Revocation and refusal notice – If the relevant person within the police has issued a revocation or refusal notice, then they can remove the guns.
- Guns used as evidence – If the guns are part of a criminal investigation they can be removed immediately as evidence.
- Court warrants – A court warrant might also be an option for the police to legally remove the firearms.
- Common law – This gives the police the power of seizure where failure to remove the guns might result in a danger to public safety.
If you ever find yourself in one of the above situations, then the following tips may be helpful:
- Get a receipt – Many forces no longer have receipt books, so request an entry in the officer’s pocketbook or their electronic device. If appropriate, politely ask to have the officers body worn camera switched on as evidence of the seizure.
- Make your own record – Did you record the condition of the guns? Take photographs or videos. Perhaps even use commentary to describe the gun’s condition for future reference.
- Remove accessories – Remove any optical accessories before the guns are taken, as they are not subject to certification.
- Get contact details – Remember to ask for the officer’s details and contact email.
- Be cooperative – We would always advise cooperation. The reason behind this is that the police have the ability to escalate the issue and return with a revocation notice. It is not unheard of for police to seek a voluntary surrender while carrying a revocation letter. This will be used in the event of non-cooperation.
Urban myths uncovered
Q: “The police cannot touch my guns unless they are firearm officers,” or “the police cannot handle my guns unless they have a shotgun/firearms certificate.”
A: All persons employed by the police have Crown Immunity and can handle firearms and ammunition. However, most constabularies usually have guns made safe by authorised staff.
These can range from Authorised Firearms Officers, Firearms Enquiry Officers and Force Armourers to name but a few. The list may vary from force to force.
Q: “If the police revoke or refuse to renew certificates they will destroy the guns.”
A: This is not the case. You continue to have the ability to sell of gift the firearms to other certificate holders. Arrangements can be made with a Registered Firearm Dealer to sell the guns on the owner’s behalf.
Q: “Guns would only be destroyed by order of a court or if disclaimed by the owner.”
A:The Police Property Act will entitle destruction of the property if an owner does not reply to a letter sent with a 28-day warning of destruction. The police do not auction guns surrendered to them.