Recently there has been concern raised over the legislation surrounding the sale and purchase of firearms and the impact of rules such as section 11/4 exemption certificates.
The kind of questions asked and comments made have included:
- What's the deal with acquiring .22 rifles on exemption certificates?
- If acquiring off an individual, presumably they'll need to tell their local police they've disposed of a firearm.
- What happens at our end?
- Do we send a letter to the police with serial numbers etc?
- Keep a record of what we have got in a safe place?
- I've acquired ammo on one before, which is simple enough - RFD keep s a log of who he's sold it to, we keep a log of what we've bought, and which members we sell it to.
- What about firearms though?
To clarify the situation, The Firearms Act 1968, together with amendments, runs to 103 pages. Since the 1968 Act there have been 22 Acts of Parliament amending the original, some as diverse as the Energy Act 2004, together with 13 Statutory Instruments. In 2001 the Home Office issued a document entitled "Firearms Law Guidance to the Police" which comprises of over 300 pages. It does not cover the six acts and four statutory instruments issued since that date. Exemption Certificates are a small part of the legislation. It is an extremely complicated subject as can be seen from the following paragraphs.
Section 11(4) of the 1968 Firearms Act states:
A person conducting or carrying on a miniature rifle range (whether for a rifle club or otherwise) or shooting gallery at which no firearms are used other than air weapons or miniature rifles not exceeding .23 inch calibre may, without holding a certificate, have in his possession, or purchase or acquire, such miniature rifles and ammunition suitable therefor; and any person may, without holding a certificate, use any such rifle and ammunition at such a range or gallery.
Firearms Guidance to the Police, Paragraph 18.3 states that:
Whether approved or not, miniature rifle clubs are entitled to the exemption in section 11(4) of the 1968 Act. Under that subsection a person conducting or carrying on a miniature rifle range (whether for a rifle club or otherwise) or shooting gallery at which only miniature rifles and ammunition not exceeding .23 calibre or air weapons are used may, without a firearm certificate, purchase, acquire or possess such miniature rifles or ammunition for them. Whilst there is no legal definition of a miniature rifle, other than one which does not exceed .23 inch in calibre, it is generally accepted that this refers only to rifles firing .22 rimfire cartridges. Persons using the range are exempt from holding a firearm certificate only whilst using such miniature rifles and ammunition at such a range or gallery.
Whether approved or not, with or without a firearms certificate, a person may purchase small-bore rifles and ammunition under 11(4) of the Act. You do not need an 'exemption certificate' to claim exemption from the need to have a FAC. It does seem an anomaly which has been around since the 1920 Firearms Act. Do not knock it, it can give a club advantages but disadvantages are present.
Looking carefully at the wording 'a person conducting or carrying on a miniature rifle range...' This means that provided you or your club officials are running the range you may take advantage of 11(4). You could not bring the guns to Bisley and shoot in our Championship Meetings because we are 'conducting' the range. If on the other hand we hired you a number of lanes at Lord Roberts Centre and you provided the supervision that would be in order.
The Advantages of Operating under Section 11(4) are:
1. You do not have to conform to Home Office criteria
2. You do not have to accept the restrictions placed on any Firearms Certificate and therefore you would not have to wait for a variation before buying a new gun
3. Any sale of ammunition or firearms has to be face to face except where there is no need to enter the transaction into a FAC (1997 Firearms Amendment Act).
With the agreement of the Home Office in the early 1990s the Showmans' Guild of Great Britain and the NSRA were allowed to issue exemption certificates. This means that a club representative can visit our shop or any other and obtain his requirements. Section 8(2)a of the 1968 Act states that it is not an offence for a person to 'part with the possession of any firearms or ammunition, otherwise than in pursuance of a contract of sale or hire or by way of gift or loan, to that person who shows that he is by virtue of this Act entitled to have possession of the firearms or ammunition without holding a certificate." This certificate 'shows' that entitlement. Logically proof must be required.
Before 1968 "Exempt Clubs" had a certificate (with a 2d postage stamp on it) giving power to buy guns and ammunition. Because clubs were not keeping proper records of purchases or sales it was agreed that a FAC would be issued free of charge to Home Office approved clubs to use as a register, just as a RFD has to. Initially the amount of guns and ammunition allowed was 'unlimited' but over the years arbitrary numbers have been imposed. An Exemption Certificate has no such limit. You do not have to enter any purchases onto your FAC, if you hold one.
Home Office Approval
The Home Office issued a document in August 2016 regarding the Approval of Rifle and Muzzle-Loading Pistol Clubs.
Under Section 44 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, a person wishing to possess a rifle or muzzle-loading pistol solely for target shooting must be a member of an approved rifle club or, as the case may be, approved muzzle-loading pistol club. Section 44(1)(b) requires an approved club to be specified on the firearm certificate. The certificate should not list all clubs of which the holder is a member.
Any rifle, miniature rifle or muzzle-loading pistol club can apply to the relevant Secretary authority (i.e the Home Office for clubs in England or Wales or the Scottish Government for clubs in Scotland) for approval. Approval is granted under section 15(1) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 (as amended by section 45 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997).
When approval has been granted, members of that club can possess firearms and ammunition without holding a personal firearm certificate "when engaged as a member of the club in connection with target shooting" (Section 15(1) of the 1988 Act as amended by section 45 of the 1997 Act).
Approval also allows the police to grant a free firearm certificate to a responsible officer of the club to enable him or her to purchase and acquire firearms and ammunition for members to use for target shooting. Club members may not purchase or acquire firearms or ammunition unless they have been granted a personal firearm certificate by the police.
If you wish to view the full Home Office Approval document it can be found at the following link: