New guidance from the Home Office to Police Forces advises them to make more unannounced security checks, especially where they may have specific intelligence that there may be issues. As this may be a phone call from a nosey neighbour saying “I think he’s got a gun” – members be aware and extra vigilant. The Police have not been granted extra powers of entry under the new guidance. As a result of the change the NRA have issued the following Guidance, linked below. The Committee urges you to read and follow the advice given by the NRA and reproduced fully below
FIREARMS SECURITY & UNANNOUNCED HOME VISITS BY POLICE ADVICE TO MEMBERS
The NRA has been informed very recently that Home Office Guidance on Firearms Law has been amended to advise that the police should carry out unannounced visits to check firearms security where they have specific intelligence that there may be an issue. The proposed text is:
“Where it is judged necessary, based on specific intelligence in light of a particular threat, or risk of harm, the police may undertake an unannounced home visit to check the security of a certificate holder’s firearms and shotguns. It is not expected that the police will undertake an unannounced home visit at an unsocial hour unless there is a justified and specific requirement to do so on the grounds of crime prevention or public safety concerns and the police judge that this action is both justified and proportionate. It is recognised that there is no new power of entry for police or police staff when conducting home visits. To mitigate any misunderstanding on the part of the certificate holder the police must provide a clear and reasoned explanation to the certificate holder at the time of the visit.”
Therefore, the NRA strongly suggests that all Members now review the security arrangements for their firearms, and provides the following advice:
In regard to security:
Please read and ensure you understand fully the two statutory security conditions on your FAC. In particular, think about the “reasonably practicable” requirement in condition 4a, which has been interpreted in court to mean that you must do the best that reasonably can be done to secure your firearms, and the limited circumstances in which condition 4b can be considered to apply. Broadly, don’t take firearms out of the secure storage until you are ready to work on them or take them to the range, and put them back in secure storage as soon as you have finished the work or returned from the range.
Check that the firearms as listed on your FAC actually match what you own and what is in your cabinets. Mistakes do get made and if discovered by the authorities may result in firearms being seized pending the error being checked and corrected.
Check that your ammunition holdings fall within the permitted limits on your FAC. Be careful to check that you really do have permission for all the expanding ammunition in all the calibres you possess.
The weakest point of your security arrangement is the keys. You must arrange things so that the keys cannot be accessed by anyone who is not entitled to access your firearms. This includes access by members of your family.
Check that all items subject to security conditions are actually where they should be. It is all too easy to leave a round of ammunition in a shooting bag, coat or car door pocket. If you have a large number of firearms, beware of leaving one insecure in a case or slip when you put the others away.
The security of your home is part of the overall security for your firearms. Make sure that everyone sharing your home understands the need to be diligent in securing it when they leave.
In regard to the new advice from the Home Office to the police:
The NRA recognises that the police have a difficult and wide-ranging role in preventing crime and are justifiably concerned to ensure that your firearms cannot be accessed illegally by the mentally unstable, the criminal or the terrorist. If the police have solid information regarding a threat, they will likely turn up in some force and with a warrant which must be complied with. Therefore an unannounced visit requesting a check should not be viewed as necessarily being a major concern.
In maintaining the elementary co-operation with the authorities expected of all FAC holders, the NRA recommends that Members comply with a reasonable request to inspect, made at a reasonable time and accompanied, as the Guidance requires, by a clear and reasoned explanation.
In the event of an unannounced visit that you do not compromise the security of your home; if you do not recognise the person claiming to be from the police then we advise you telephone your local police station to confirm their credentials (telephoning 101 may be helpful). In any case do not admit to having firearms at home until you have satisfied yourself of the visitor’s identity.
However, as the Guidance makes clear, the police have no right of entry under the Firearms Acts in these circumstances, and members should not be afraid to refuse a request they consider unreasonable. Also, if a request to inspect arises suddenly in the course of an unrelated matter, remember that the officers may be completely un-briefed and have only a limited understanding of firearms legislation. If you accede to such a request, you may have to approach it with the mentality of introducing a new shooter to firearms for the first time.
When the police visit, it can be difficult to keep track of events, particularly when on your own and there is more than one of them. A little practice with the video function on a modern camera, computer or smartphone may be useful. Similarly, ensuring that you can summon a witness or adviser quickly and under pressure may be useful.
It is essential that you stay calm and reasonable irrespective of your emotions. If you accede to an inspection and subsequently have concerns about the way it was conducted, it would normally be appropriate to contact the police headquarters involved. The police have sophisticated processes for dealing with complaints; do not be afraid to use them.
If you have serious concerns or need help, the NRA can provide assistance.
The NRA is keen to help assess the impact of the new Guidance and its effectiveness in improving firearm security. If, as a member, you are the subject of an unannounced inspection, please let the NRA know, preferably by email through our website www.nra.org.uk