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.

General

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.           

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 home office guidance in respect of approved rifle and muzzle loading pistol clubs in that a minimum of three times a year is 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.

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 our existing ICT systems that would allow our 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.

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 Air Weapon Team 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: 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: 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: 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?

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?

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 Air Weapons Team based in Glasgow 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.

For air weapons licences there is no requirement for a medical visit so, if it is not disclosed, it won’t be checked.  The same applies for checking the secure keeping of air weapons. 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. The Air Weapon Team do try to turn renewals in a much quicker time period however the numbers that are due at certain points will affect this process. Likewise, issues where applications are not completed properly do cause individual delays.  

We currently have granted 1,609 renewals outstanding and the Air Weapons Team are currently up to date in sending renewal letters out 16 weeks in advance. We also send out a 12 week reminder letter if required and also try and make contact thereafter with applicants by telephone call or letter, should they fail to respond to this. We have supported this by having staff work into the evenings which was found to allow for more certificate holders to be available to speak and thus alleviate any issues at the initial application phase.

There are currently no backlogs and if any renewals are not completed on time, it has been found it was the certificate holder themselves who are not engaging with Police or indeed failing to provide all of the necessary information.  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?

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.

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.