Police Scotland FAQ

Through the relationships Scottish Target Shooting has with Police Scotland we have developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions with responses from Police Scotland to help provide answers to some of the commonly asked questions. If there are any questions you would like us to raise with Police Scotland regarding Firearms, Shotguns, Air Weapons and related matters such as certificates and permits then please use the form at the bottom of the page and we will get an answer up on the website.

Updated in partnership with Police Scotland on 19th February 2019

General

Q: Who can handle firearms/air weapons/shotguns on the range?

A: Full members of an approved club can, without a personal certificate, have possession of firearms on the range so long as their reason for doing so is target shooting.

Until a probationary member has satisfactorily completed a course in the safe handling and use of firearms, he/she must be supervised at all times when in possession of firearms or ammunition by either the range officer, a full member of the club, or someone who is a coach with a qualification recognised by the governing bodies.

Non-shooting forms of membership such as associate, family, social or honorary (where applicable) may only have access to firearms and ammunition when participating in 'guest days' and operating under the strictest of supervision.

RCO's and coaches can obviously possess the weapons, provide instruction and ensure safe shooting practices whilst on the range. RFD's and any servants can possess weapons in relation to the usual RFD business practices, including the testing and zeroing of weapons but not for casual target shooting.

Q: Do Club members need to take part in competition to keep their certificate, or is practice/target shooting sufficient?

A: If the good reason for an air weapon certificate is provided as a club target shooter, it is expected that the certificate holder will be a member of a club, approved or otherwise, and shoot regularly. There is no requirement to shoot at competitions or events but the member should sign in to allow later review of club attendance.

In terms of firearms, a firearm certificate holder must show ‘good reason’ for the possession of the firearms on their certificate. There is no requirement to take part on competition but there is a requirement to show that each firearm that is possessed is used regularly.

Q: How many times per year (if any) Do Club members need to take part in competition to keep their certificate, or is practice/target shooting sufficient?

A: If the good reason for an air weapon certificate is provided as a club target shooter, it is expected that the certificate holder will be a member of a club, approved or otherwise, and shoot regularly.  The number of times to shoot regularly has not been defined in law, however can be taken in line with the Home Office Guidance on Firearms Licensing Law in respect of approved rifle and muzzle loading pistol clubs in that they should be used at least three times a year to be sufficient to be classed as regular shooting at a club. There is no requirement to shoot at competitions or events but the member should sign in to allow later review of club attendance. There is nothing preventing the certificate holder expressing multiple good reason for the use of the weapon.

In terms of firearms, it should be considered the same as above, and a note made of the firearms that are being used on each occasion.  Ammunition purchased at the club or range should be noted on the firearm certificate as that shows a purchase and use history that could support you later when approaching the police to increase your ammunition levels as good reason is again scrutinised.

Q: Is it correct that Police Scotland are expecting all FAC holders to have shot each rifle a minimum of 3 times?

A: Section 13.53 of the most recent Home Office Guidance on Firearms Licensing Law states that firearms should be used, at least, 3 or more times a year, with some exceptions. This is a minimum standard, however each case would be considered on its own basis in terms of a certificate holders continued good reason if for any reason they were unable to regularly attend their club.

Q: Can Police Scotland access the firearms database while on patrol?

A; Not currently however Police Scotland are constantly looking to introduce technology to enable workforce efficiency and operational effectiveness, using analytics, better quality data and wider sources to improve decision making. All these factors will impact on how we deliver Firearms Licensing in the future.

Police Officer cannot access the database whilst on patrol but have indirect access through “Shogun”. It was confirmed that if a person does not have a licence on their person then the Officer could call to check Shogun.

Currently, Police Scotland is ascertaining the capability of their existing ICT systems to allow their command and control system to allow immediate identification of properties where weapons may legally be held. This will support public safety immeasurably if it is feasible.

Air Weapons

Q: what provisions do I need to make for storing my air weapon(s)?

A: The Home Office provides more extensive guidance about this but essentially it advises that in many cases it will be sufficient to store your air weapon in an existing, suitably robust, lockable cupboard - keeping the keys separate and secure. Alternatively, use a lock or locking device to attach your air weapon to the fabric of a building, or to a fixed feature or use a security cord, lockable chain or similar device attached to a point of anchorage within the building. You, as the certificate holder, must show that you have taken all reasonable precautions for the safe custody of your air weapon(s). If unsure what is acceptable, do not hesitate to contact Police Scotland directly who will be able to advise what is appropriate in your own specific circumstances. 

Q: what is the legal position of shooting with an expired licence while waiting on their licence renewal to be processed?

A: Where an individual has applied for the renewal of an air weapon certificate before its expiry but the Chief Constable has not, as at the date of its expiry, determined whether or not to grant the renewal, the certificate is to continue to have effect until the application is determined (sec 8(2) of the AW Act).

It has been considered from a legal perspective that receipt of application by the relevant National Firearms and Explosive Licensing Processing Office would be the standard that would be considered when determining if an application has been made which would allow for the above to stand. A certificate holder could not walk into a police office in Aberdeen on their day of expiry and consider that they would be allowed to continue use of their air weapon until a decision has been made by the Chief Constable.

Q: If a junior aged 14 to 18 has a Certificate and one parent also has a Certificate, is it legal for the other parent, who does not have a Certificate, to transport the junior and their air Gun to an event, competition or training?

A: A parent who does not possess an air weapon certificate (or otherwise) cannot transport a weapon from A to B on behalf of their child.

Q: If the second parent requires to have a Certificate and is not a member of recognised air Gun club and has no intention of joining a club, is “to transport child” an acceptable reason to apply for A certificate?

A: Parents can apply for a full Air Weapon Certificate and will be granted on the grounds that possession and transportation on behalf of a minor is good reason.

Q: does The Air WEapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 interact with the Violent Crime Reduction Bill with regards to purchase of air guns in Scotland?

A; The sale of air weapons has not changed. Sec 31 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 provides Prohibition on sale or transfer of air weapons, except by registered dealer to the 1968 Act, by way of trade or business. The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 does not encroach upon this piece of legislation in this respect.

Q: we have seen a drop in shooters attending competitions due to the uncertainty since the introduction of Air Gun licences. some clubs are taking a ‘no licence, no shoot’ approach. What is the legal position while shooting without a licence under supervision at clubs?

A: In terms of clubs, Police Scotland can make no enforcement on its own byelaws without initial discussion with Scottish Government. In this respect it is a fear of ‘getting it wrong’ which is driving the clubs to make demands at events. Certainly, Police Scotland will be able to assist with any club queries in respect of what they are and are not allowed to do. The responsibility at all times remains with the club however and they must remain mindful of their responsibilities and conditions in ensuring safe shooting. The following two pieces of legislation have been highlighted to assist; 

It is not an offence under section 2(1) for an individual (“A”) to use or possess an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate if-

a) A is a member of an approved air weapon club,

b) the use or possession occurs while A is engaged as such a member—

i) in target shooting at the club, another approved air weapon club, an event or competition, or

ii) in connection with such target shooting, and

c) where A is under the age of 14, A's use and possession of an air weapon is supervised by another club member aged 21 years or more.

Loaning of air weapons for exempted purposes

Section 16(1) of the Act, provides it is not an offence under section 24(1) or (2) for a person listed in sub-paragraph (2) to lend or to let on hire an air weapon to an individual (“A”), who does not hold an air weapon certificate, for the purpose of A's using and possessing the weapon in accordance with an exemption under this schedule.

(2) The persons are—

a)  a holder of an air weapon certificate, or

b) a person who

i) does not hold an air weapon certificate, but

ii) is entitled to use or possess an air weapon without committing an offence by virtue of an exemption under this schedule

Certificates (General)

Q: if a junior (under 18) has a rifle but this is listed under a parents FAC (or has an air gun listed under the club’s guns), can that junior transport either gun unaccompanied?

A: An under 18 with an air weapon cannot transport their weapon from A to B without supervision of a suitably certified person over the age of 21. For a firearm it is slightly different in that they can possess their firearm if over 14. However, Police Scotland would always advise that a responsible adult accompany them at this age.

Q: Is it possible to issue an Air Weapon Certificate card that can fit in a wallet or purse instead of having to carry the full certificate all the time?

A: This is not something that would be progressed by Police Scotland. The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 and its associated Orders defined what an ‘air weapon certificate’ should look like and thereafter set it out on statute. Even the paper that is used upon which the details of the certificate is printed is a specific style of paper which is to prevent illegal copying. Police Scotland would not have any objections to changes but the implementation of the change would need to come from the Scottish Government so it is recommended a request to make a change like this is best taken to the Scottish Government.

Q: Given the experience of trying to carry a paper certificate in all conditions. If asked for his/her licence when in possession of an air rifle, what would the process be and can a plastic card be introduced which is more resilient to weather conditions? 

A: This is not something that can be progressed by Police. This is a certificate agreed within UK Government and provided by statute. It is believed, there has been no discussions where the paper certificate is to be replaced by a card. The capability to do this is available, but not something any police force in the UK is able to progress without Government approval.

Q: Can Certificates or Licences be laminated?

A: With regards to firearms certificates, these cannot be laminated as there will remain the need to add or remove weapons as well as show a purchase history with regards to ammunition.

With regards to air weapons certificates, these can be but SHOULD not be.  The paper used for the air weapon certificate incorporates certain anti-identity theft security features and allows greater chance of forgery as the feel of certificate paper is quite different than normal paper.

An alternative option is the use of a polypocket which can be sellotaped at the top which means it can be opened to confirm authenticity if required.

Clubs (incl. Supervision & events)

Q: What Information am I required to provide to Police scotland and when with regards To new members?

A: As per Home Office Guidance in relation to the 'Approval of Rifle and Muzzle loading pistol clubs' it states that in relation to new members Clubs are only required to provide the 'Full Name, Home Address, Date and Place of Birth, and date on which they became a full member'. Over and above that criteria you do not lawfully need to retain or provide any additional information. Notification should be submitted to Police Scotland when someone submits a 'formal application' for membership. For clubs that have a probationary period, notification would need to be made at that point but would not need to be submitted again if the individual is made a ‘full’ member.

Q: My Club has been Asked to complete a Questionnaire by Police Scotland, Am I required to complete this?

A: Police Scotland have now confirmed that it is not a “requirement” under the firearms legislation that the questionnaire be completed. Nonetheless, Police Scotland do have powers which would entitle inspection of Club records in terms of the club’s approved status - therefore they would be entitled to recover at least some of the information requested by means of an inspection.

Such inspections, however, would obviously be time consuming and a drain on resources as well as inconvenient for clubs. Bearing in mind that Police Scotland have responsibility for ensuring compliance with that legislation by all clubs, by certificate holders and for public safety, it is in all of our interests, as well as the public interest generally, that the shooting community should provide its assistance and co-operation providing the information requested.

That having been said, Police Scotland have very helpfully indicated that it was not the intention of this exercise to subject Club Secretaries to a significant volume of work. In particular, there is no requirement for Club Secretaries to find out information requested which is not already in their possession. That is to say, that they do not need to chase up any of the information requested which they do not already hold.

An important reason for the thought which has required to be given to this matter is the fact that Club Secretaries, and Police Scotland, are bound by Data Protection legislation, in particular, Section 35 of the Data Protection Act 2018.

For the protection of Club Secretaries, STS suggests that clubs obtain and record (in any convenient form in your club records) the agreement of each of your club members to the club providing that information to Police Scotland. That is the same information which Police Scotland would have been entitled to obtain by the inspection exercise described above.

Q: Does a club need to apply for an event certificate if they hold an open shoot (not necessary an STS event)?

A: For rifle and muzzle loading pistol clubs, these would operate as they do currently in respect of club competitions.  The Home Office make allowance for guest days which clubs should notify police about but would pay for in reference to a permit.

In reference to an air weapon club, the chief constable may, on the application of a person who is organising or otherwise responsible for an event, grant a permit authorising individuals at the event to borrow, hire, use and possess air weapons while engaging in an event activity without holding an air weapon certificate.  This would possibly include an open shoot whereby you have shooters coming from the UK or abroad.  Were all the attendees legally able to hold and use an air weapon in their own right, then you would not need to have an event permit.

Q: Does a non-certificate holder (e.g. visitor to an approved club) need close supervision (i.e. one to one) or is it just the case that a licence holder needs to be present at the club?

A: The club approval in respect of the rifle and muzzle loading pistol club provides that guest members must be:

  • Members of a recognised outside organisation;

  • People who are known personally to a least one full member of the club;

  • Member of another Approved club visiting as members of that club; or

  • Visitors possessing firearms that fall within the terms of the club’s approval and that are held on their personal FAC or Visitor’s permit or Permit under Section 7 of the 1968 Firearms Act.

The club does not have more than 12 guest days a year.  Guest members (other than members of another approved club or visitors with a Firearm Certificate, Visitors permit or Permit under Section 7 of the 1968 Firearms Act as above), may only shoot during a guest day, and must be supervised on a one to one basis at all times when handling firearms and ammunition by either a full club member or someone who is a coach recognised by the governing bodies.  The club secretary must notify each guest day to the police firearms licensing department of the area in which the guest day is to take place at least 48 hours in advance.

In respect of air weapons, it is not an offence under section 2(1) for an individual (“A”) to use or possess an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate if:

  • A is a member of an approved air weapon club;

  • The use of or possession occurs while A is engaged as such a member:

    • In target shooting at the club, another approved air weapon club, an event or competition or;

    • In connection with such target shooting, and

    • Where A is under the age of 14, A’s use and possession of an air weapon is supervised by another club member aged 21 years or more.

Therefore, a non-certificate holding “visitor” cannot undertake unsupervised shooting within the club environment

Medical Checks

Q: We see a huge variety in the medical check charges from free to £200 – do you have any advice around this? 

A: Police Scotland has identified this as a problem both to the Home Office and Scottish Government. Ultimately it is outside the responsibility of Police Scotland and would require to be considered from a national (UK) perspective. A recent survey provided the average fee to be £40 but I am aware of certain GP’s who charge in excess of £200. Unfortunately, Police Scotland can provide no advice around this issue but is working with GPs to try and bring these down and currently, out of 1,025 GP Practices in Scotland, there are now only 10 who are registered as conscientious objectors which is down from 12 months ago due to ongoing conversations Police Scotland have been having with these GPs.

Refusals

Q: Can the difference between ‘refused’ and ‘banned’ be clarified?

A; Police Scotland do not ban people from holding firearms. There are certain prohibitions from the possession of firearms (including shotguns, antique firearms and air weapons).  This means that certain people are not only prohibited from possessing their own guns but would also be prohibited, for example, to take part in clay pigeon shoots, or from possession of guns on a shooting range. In simple terms, the Firearms Act 1968 applies:

Any person sentence to serve between three months and three years (or who has been given a suspended sentence of this duration) is prohibited from possessing any firearm for a period of five years.

Any person sentenced to serve a prison sentence of three years or more is prohibited as above for life.

These prohibitions may be listed on appeal to an appropriate Sheriff.

In terms of refusal, this is when Police Scotland have undertaken an enquiry at time of application and determined that the applicant is unsuitable, for whatever reason to possess a certificate that allows access to weapons.  This does not prevent that person shooting where an exemption under the Firearms Act 1968 applies.  Further advice can be found within Chapter 6 of the Home Office Guide on Firearms Licensing Law.

Where a club member is refused, then that Club would be notified of the refusal as per the Home Office Guidance.  It would rest with the Club to determine whether they would continue with the membership of the individual.  

In terms of revocations, these should be considered the same as a refusal in terms of what it considers.  Whilst reviews are undertaken into a refusal or revocation, where weapons are held, these will tend to be seized by the Police where there is a perceived danger to public safety.

It was noted that by June 2017 there had been 126 refusals out of 14,500 air weapon certificate applications. Police Scotland apply common sense and proportionality when reviewing applications.

Renewals

Q: When should licence holders start applying for renewals?

A: In Scotland, certificate holders will be notified around 16 weeks prior to the expiry of a certificate. In respect of a firearms certificate holder, they will be asked to download and complete and retain the application, make payment digitally and ensure they have all the paperwork they require for the enquiry to be processed, i.e. land suitability etc. They will be asked to provide a letter to their GP which asks the GP to make comment of the medical history of the applicant. A firearms enquiry officer will make contact with the applicant and arrange a suitable time to attend and undertake the enquiry. At this point, the firearms enquiry officer will attend, undertake an interview, review your application, evaluate the security, confirm payment and finally uplift all the paperwork so your certified enquiry can progress hopefully to re-certification.

In respect of air weapons, certificate holders will be notified around 16 weeks prior to the expiry of a certificate. They will be asked to download and complete their application before sending it, photographs and payment to the relevant Firearms and Explosive Licensing Office who will progress the enquiry. It is recommended that the return of the application is not delayed and certainly submitted prior to 8 weeks before expiry to ensure it smooth process and no weapon is held illegally.

Q: Does the renewal Process Require a complete re-application i.e. will I need a referee again?

A: Yes, the same application forms are used for the grant and renewal of both firearms and air weapons. There remains a requirement to provide photographs and detail medical concerns and criminal convictions, even if the applicant has mentioned the same in a previous application. The only difference will be the fee to be paid in respect of a renewal.

However, if an applicant makes a claim on a form that is later found to be false, the person will be charged.

Q: There have been hugely varying times for renewals - what are the factors that can impact this?

A: Most firearm licensing enquires follow a 16 week cycle which is transparent to the applicant, clear to the staff undertaking the enquiry, and allows sufficiency in most occasions for a fully informed decision to be made. Where applications are not completed properly or where GP’s are not engaged timeously, these can cause individual delays.  

In terms of air weapon applications, some common faults that have been identified that slows done the renewal process are:

  • Certificate holder unaware that they require to submit an AWL 1 form for renewal.

  • No verifier’s details completed as they have previously supplied these on the original form.

  • No reference number on online banking payment making it difficult to trace - it is accepted that this can be the fault of the bank and not due to the Certificate holder.

  • Not completing the relevant sections with details and merely stating ' as per previous form'. 

Travel with a Firearm/Air Weapon

Q: Does Police Scotland brief all travel entities (rail, air, sea etc.) about air weapon legislation and the carriage of air weapons to minimise disruption to the traveller especially when traveller is challenged to prove weapon is theirs?

A: Scottish Government has provided guidance which is available by following the http://airweapon.scot/images/uploads/downloads/Air_Weapons_Licensing_-_Guidance_-_April_2017.pdf. This is an open source living document that any person or organisation can review. Initially we did deal with significant queries in regards this very matter and we were able to provide guidance and direction to a multitude of companies. Police Scotland does not pro-actively approach companies per se but we are always willing to offer support and guidance where appropriate.

It was asked who was responsible for weapons when they are taken off the FAC holder on a flight, as no receipt is given. It was confirmed that the FAC holder is legally responsible whilst they have them in their possession, but when the airline takes control of them, they have responsibility if they are authorised carriers. The Scottish Government holds a list of authorised airline carriers and these will provided to STS to share with members.

 

Q: What are the regulations for clubs transporting rifles that are under a Club FAC to another club for competitions?

A: In actual terms of travelling with club weapons, but the club certificate holder is not present, Section 22.18 of the Home Office Guidance provides;

Members of an approved rifle or muzzle-loading pistol club who carry club firearms and ammunition for the purpose of club shoots at ranges away from their home club premises benefit from the provisions of section 15 of the 1988 Act. People so doing might be encouraged to carry written authority from their club secretary or club official and a copy of the club certificate. Firearms removed from club premises for the purpose of participating in competitions should be returned, without delay, to the club storage after the competition, unless it is impracticable to do so.

This supports the proposition that a club member, without holding a certificate, can indeed travel to a ‘target shooting’ activity without holding a certificate in their own right. 

From the point of a Club, this would support the sport, but places a significant responsibility upon the club and would seek reassurance that the person is a nominated club official and that a copy of the club certificate be present during transport. Police Scotland recommend from a Club perspective, where weapons cannot be returned to approved security, alternative measures are employed which does not breach legislation, i.e. the transporter cannot just take them back to their house. The security condition remains in place whoever has actual possession.

Clarification was sought of whether a RFD certificate holder or appointed agent could transport weapons. It was confirmed that this was permissible if it forms part of the business plan.

Q: Can a member of a club use club firearms and airguns in the club and transport a club firearm and/or air gun to a competition venue or squad training?

A: That is correct for firearms and air weapons with regards to club usage and transportation. It is acceptable for members other than the firearm certificate holder, if the activity is clearly in connection with target shooting, to transport firearms (or air weapons) to another club or authorised range for a competition or to a dealer for repair. It is advisable when transporting firearms (or air weapons) as a member of a club to have some form of written authorisation from a club official. Police Scotland would also accept that a squad training camp is clearly in connection with target shooting and therefore the aforementioned would also apply for this scenario.

Variations

Q: Why do I have to wait for 16 weeks for a variation to my FAC when Another club member applied to Glasgow Division and was awarded the variation within a few days, without checks?

A: This is an ongoing issue in certain areas and is currently being reviewed. The process will, for the most part, be undertaken much quicker and smoother and allow for the certificate holder to receive their variation in a shorter period.

However, this is with the caveat that where a variation request is considered contentious, further enquiry may be required and thus, on that individual occasion, it may be longer before a decision is made.