Unannounced visits to firearm certificate holders
Under new Home Office guidance police will be able to make unannounced visits to check on the security arrangements of certificate holders in an initiative to ensure firearms are being kept and stored securely. However it should be noted that police do not have any new powers of entry.
The new Home Office guidance to the police states:
“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.”
It is clearly the responsibility of every owner to ensure that their firearms are securely stored when not in use in accordance with the terms of their certificate. Although they will not normally be held on a certificate, it is important for airgun users also to take appropriate steps to store their airguns securely. Although the information issued suggests that the chance of an unannounced visit to any particular individual is small, it is the Association’s advice to all members that they should immediately check that their current security arrangements are maintained to the appropriate standard.
If such an unannounced visit is made, the police are required to provide a clear and reasoned explanation for the visit to the certificate holder. Whilst it is sensible to co-operate with the police should such a circumstance arise, the certificate holder does need to satisfy himself that the visit is official and that it is not a scam being perpetrated by a bogus person posing as a police officer. It should be noted that an unannounced visit may not be occasioned by something relating specifically to the certificate holder, but be concerned with other factors such as local crime.
If such a visit takes place and the member believes that it was not undertaken properly, they are advised to report the matter to their local Constabulary Headquarters giving details of why they believe this to be the case. It would be helpful if such details could also be passed to the NSRA, so that they can be followed up through national channels such as through the British Shooting Sports Council.
A crime-stoppers line is be launched for anyone with concerns about firearms security or about sudden changes in the behaviour of firearm users. We do not believe that this is necessary and will be monitoring this initiative, as will other national shooting bodies.