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Firearms licensing

Authorised Professional Practice

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This page is from APP, the official source of professional practice for policing.

First published
Written by College of Policing
Major investigation and public protection
28 mins read

Firearms licensing overview

This authorised professional practice (APP) relates to the licensing of firearms and focuses on the: 

  • strategic issues
  • roles and responsibilities of individuals involved in this activity 
  • licensing process

The term ‘firearms’ is generally used in this APP to refer to all lethal barrelled weapons. This includes shotguns, unless there needs to be a distinction. For example, distinguishing between issues to do with firearms certificates and shotgun certificates.

Forces should align their activity with this APP and the Home Office guide on firearms licensing law, and must take into account the Home Office statutory guidance.

Forces that choose not to align their activities with statutory/non-statutory guidance and this APP should notify the national policing lead for firearms and explosives licensing. They should provide a rationale for these decisions. 

Aims and objectives of firearms licensing

The aim of firearms licensing is to ensure public safety by controlling access to firearms. We can keep the public safe by focusing firearms licensing activity on the following objectives.

  • Prevent foreseeable or avoidable harm.
  • Manage risk and act decisively if risk is identified.
  • Be proportionate and timely.
  • Provide a fair, rigorous, transparent and consistent service to the public.

Effective assessment, use of professional judgement and decision making underpins the aim and objectives.


Firearms licensing activity is governed by legislation, the most relevant being the Firearms Act 1968. Forces must align their activity with all relevant legislation.

Firearms licensing enables the lawful granting or renewal of firearms certificates to suitable people. Certificates allow the holder to possess, purchase and acquire the firearm to which they refer.

Some people deal in firearms for business (for example, manufacture, sale, repair, testing). These applicants may be registered as a firearms dealer.

Assessing suitability

Chief constables are responsible in law for firearms licensing decisions in their force. They grant and authorise firearm and shotgun certificates. Certificates are given to applicants with a good reason for possessing a firearm or shotgun and who are assessed as suitable.

Suitability criteria are set out in the Home Office statutory guidance for chief officers of police on firearms licensing.

The main consideration for suitability should always be whether the applicant can possess a firearm without danger to either:

  • public safety (including themselves)
  • the peace

The chief constable should establish the governance and infrastructure to support effective firearms licensing in their force. This should be done in line with the underpinning aims and objectives set out previously.

Firearms licensing activity includes the refusal or revocation of certificates. Certificates are refused or revoked for individuals who are unsuitable, or become unsuitable, to possess firearms.

When forces use risk assessment tools alongside the national decision model (NDM) to inform the assessment of suitability, they should ensure they are used in conjunction with professional judgement to aid effective decision making.

Supporting guidance and bodies

Several national products and bodies support firearms licensing activity. These include the following.


A chief constable is responsible and accountable to the public for firearms licensing decisions. They should be able to audit and give reasons for decisions concerning grants, renewals, refusals, revocations and returns of firearms and certificates.

They should also ensure that any risks to public safety and/or any breaches of the Firearms Act 1968 are identified and investigated.

The chief constable should consider appointing a member of the chief officer team to act as senior responsible officer (SRO) and strategic lead with responsibility for governance of firearms licensing in their force. This appointment should be based on appropriate capability, experience and capacity. The strategic lead should help forces to adopt and correctly implement this APP, the Home Office firearms licensing guidance and nationally agreed policies and procedures.

The role may also include:

  • assigning and managing appropriate resources for the department
  • monitoring performance
  • financial responsibility
  • public engagement

This appointment does not remove or reduce the chief constable’s responsibility and accountability for firearms licensing.

The chief constable or strategic lead should hold regular governance meetings. These should be used to discuss and/or assess the overall performance of the licensing department.

A chief constable may delegate some or all of their powers to other staff in accordance with their role and responsibilities. The delegation of powers supports efficient and effective compliance with the administration of the Firearms Act 1968. Powers should be delegated to staff based on their capability, experience and capacity.

Full authorities should only be delegated to the strategic lead, a senior officer and/or the firearms licensing manager. Other selected staff members may be given partial authorities to grant, renew or vary a certificate.

The chief constable should define, agree and communicate in writing:

  • the parameters of delegated authorities
  • what decisions can be made and by whom

To be open and transparent, forces should consider making this information available publicly. For example, as part of the strategic demand assessment.

A chief constable may delegate some of their authority to selected staff members (for example, the strategic lead). They must, however, keep oversight, governance and accountability for all firearms licensing decisions made on their behalf.

Staff with delegated authorities should have the experience and capability to ensure that they can audit and account for their decision making. Although the majority of decisions will be made during office hours, forces need to ensure arrangements are in place to provide delegated authority 24/7, all year round – for example, to make urgent decisions around revocation.

Forces should document who can exercise delegated authority against different types of decisions (with a focus on ensuring appropriate experience and capability is aligned to each category). Categories of decision can include:

  • granting
  • renewal
  • variations
  • refusal
  • revocation
  • return of firearm (following a suitability review)

Strategic demand assessments 

Chief constables should develop a strategic demand assessment (SDA). This ensures their force has the appropriate capacity and capability to meet firearms licensing-related demand. The SDA should be undertaken against the underpinning aims and objectives. It should consider:

  • identifying the demand for firearms licensing capacity and capability. This would include business as usual (for example, applications), anticipated renewals and ongoing suitability assessments for all certificate holders
  • identifying the way this demand will be effectively managed, including the people, places, equipment and training required
  • identifying and assessing the risks to capability and capacity
  • outlining the plans to manage those risks

The SDA should be reviewed annually. The review should include input from the firearms licensing department. There may also be a need for support from other parts of the organisation (for example, performance analysts).

The chief constable should approve the SDA, or sign-off should be delegated by them to a senior member of staff (for example, to the strategic lead for firearms licensing).

Results of the SDA should be forwarded to the national lead via the NPCC firearms licensing portfolio. This enables the national policing lead to assess the level of national demand and capacity, as well as having oversight of challenges in the system. The portfolio and supporting working group (FELWG) can advise and facilitate discussion and action for forces who identify problems as a result of the SDA.

Early sight of potential or actual issues relating to demand, capacity and capability offer the opportunity for effective mitigating action.

Delivering a good service

Although it is not a legal right in the UK to possess a firearm, staff in firearms licensing departments should strive to deliver a high-quality service to applicants and certificate holders who require a firearm as part of their work or elect to hold a firearm for sporting and recreational purposes.

The ways in which the police engage and interact with the community – as well as the negative and positive experiences of the public when accessing firearms licensing services – can influence subsequent perceptions of police fairness and legitimacy, and confidence in the police.

Forces must deliver a high-quality service that encompasses public engagement and complies with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. Adopting a procedurally just approach can help achieve this. For example, by:

  • making impartial decisions and explaining how they were reached (for example, by explaining decisions on suitability)
  • showing trustworthiness by being open and honest (for example, by making documents such as the strategic demand assessment publicly available)
  • treating people with dignity and respect

Forces should ensure they are responsive to enquirers and provide communication options into the licensing department, for example telephone, email and/or web forms.

Information should be made available to applicants and certificate holders on how to appeal decisions made by the force. Forces should also make clear their complaints procedure.



The resourcing of firearms licensing activity must meet both:

The strategic demand assessment also influences resourcing. This assessment highlights local factors and considerations.

It is important to configure resources against the responsibilities outlined in this section. This configuration can include police officers and/or police staff (this could include volunteers) and will also need to consider delegated authority.

The key factors are that:

  • staff are confident and competent to assess suitability and make decisions aligned with the legislation, this guidance and the Home Office statutory guidance
  • there is sufficient capacity to respond to demand in an efficient, rigorous and proportionate way

Competence can be achieved through experience and training. (Note: national firearms licensing training is being developed by the College).

Senior management team


The chief constable is responsible and accountable for firearms licensing in their force. They need to be satisfied that clear decision-making processes are in place.

See more information about decision making.

To fulfil this responsibility, the chief constable needs to do the following.

  • Consider if and how they will delegate their authority. They need to identify staff to hold delegated authority. They need to document any associated parameters around different levels of authority. (See 3.47 of the Home Office statutory guidance for further information.)
  • Appoint an individual to oversee and manage the firearms licensing department.
  • Consider appointing a member of the chief officer team to act as SRO and strategic lead in force. The strategic lead can help ensure the infrastructure is in place to support the firearms licensing department and firearms licensing processes in force.

Governance meetings 

The chief constable, or appointed strategic lead, should chair regular governance meetings. These meetings should be used to discuss and assess the overall performance of their force’s licensing department. These meetings should cover the following areas.

Performance assessment, including:

  • performance monitoring regarding the granting of certificates, renewals, refusals, revocations and returns
  • timeliness of the department’s processes, for example in relation to applications for granting certificates and renewals
  • dip sampling of all licensing-related decisions, including return of firearms and certificates.

Reviews of processes, including:

  • the outcome of appeals and any relevant promising practice or learning
  • finance and resourcing, especially any impacts resulting from the SDA
  • cases of note that may need further investigation or review
  • the processes used to identify and flag intelligence or criminal use of firearms
  • implications of new developments, promising practice or learning associated with firearms licensing
  • monitoring and management of any identified risks, for example demand exceeding capacity, workforce planning

Engagement, including:

  • public engagement strategies and stakeholder meetings
  • engagement with shooting clubs and organisations (note: this engagement should involve the strategic lead)
  • partnership working – for example, identifying or discussing any strategic challenges or opportunities that impact the firearms licensing process, including the requirement for and development of memorandums of understanding (MoU) and/or information sharing agreements (ISAs)
  • complaints, including their investigation, resolution and any learning from experience

Governance meetings should also consider the possibility of wider scrutiny of performance, processes and engagement that could involve bodies that are independent of the firearms licensing process. For example, police and crime commissioners (PCC) or independent advisory groups.

Firearms licensing manager 

The firearms licensing manager oversees the running of the firearms licensing department. They have an important role in decision making.

As well as decision making, firearms licensing managers should do the following.

  • Plan and develop the work of the department to ensure it can meet anticipated demand based on the SDA. This should be done in accordance with the underpinning aims and objectives.
  • Monitor and manage the performance of the department. Firearms licensing-related issues should be escalated to the strategic lead and chief constable when necessary.
  • Take responsibility for staff development, including recruitment, training and continuing professional development (CPD).
  • Manage the welfare and wellbeing of firearms licensing staff. For example, by ensuring workloads are manageable and that staff are aware of, and can access, local or national wellbeing resources.
  • Establish and oversee processes for ensuring staff integrity. For example, by ensuring that staff are vetted in line with force policy, establishing processes and safeguards that promote ethical decision making, and capturing and managing potential conflicts of interest that may impact on assessing suitability and/or decision making related to firearms licensing.
  • Provide leadership and specialist or technical support. For example, in complex, sensitive or contentious cases to the department or wider force.
  • Engage in problem solving and innovation to help meet the aims and objectives of firearms licensing. For example, by developing dip sampling or quality assurance (QA) mechanisms for decisions, and making the most efficient and effective use of IT systems and platforms.
  • Engage with internal and external stakeholders through an engagement plan, to build and maintain effective working relationships and partnerships. This can help licensing and decision-making processes. This plan should be agreed with the strategic lead.
  • Engage with national and regional forums to contribute to disseminating good practice across forces. For example, sharing experiences and outcomes of engagement planning.

Staff may need to support the firearms licensing manager with these responsibilities. For example, by providing supervision and management on different aspects of firearms licensing.

Firearms enquiry officers

Role in assessing suitability

Firearms enquiry officers (FEOs) have a critical role in ensuring, as far as is possible, that people who may pose a risk of harm through access to firearms are prevented from so doing.

To be effective in this role, FEOs – while not necessarily recognised as formal investigators – need to use investigative skills, such as curiosity. This allows them to look beyond the obvious communication to elicit as much information as possible and identify clues that might point towards lines of enquiry.

After an application has been received and initial checks and enquiries undertaken, the FEOs will conduct further investigative activity to develop recommendations on whether an individual is suitable to acquire, possess and lawfully use firearms. To achieve this, the FEO should:

  • visit the applicant or licence holder when establishing suitability (in line with statutory guidance on when to conduct visits)
  • discuss with the applicant or licence holder any aspects of their physical and mental health and prior experience of vulnerability that may impact their suitability
  • interview other individuals who may help inform the suitability assessment – for example, partners, family members, referees and if necessary, former partners
  • generate recommendations about suitability and identified risk
  • prepare reports and manage case files to ensure an audit trail of fair and transparent decisions
  • ensure that all obtained information is processed in accordance with the provisions of data protection legislation and the Freedom of Information Act 2000

They should also:

  • develop and maintain specialist knowledge on firearms licensing – including legal requirements, security standards and safe shooting
  • share their knowledge with colleagues in policing and the public – for example, engaging with local policing teams on firearms licensing issues (such as short notice voluntary surrender or seizure of firearms), and sharing process and practice with licence holders, shooting organisations and clubs
  • assist in the seizing, surrendering or recovery of guns when required – ensuring safe handling and accurate record keeping

Other responsibilities 

FEOs are also involved in other licensing-related activity. This includes but is not limited to:

  • engagement with stakeholders, such as clubs, clay pigeon shoots and rough shoots
  • engagement with registered firearms dealers – for example, carrying out stock checks or audits
  • providing specialist knowledge and advice on firearms licensing matters – for example, land surveys and antiques
  • the licensing of explosives – some FEOs may also be explosive licensing officers (ELOs). This is a specialist area that is governed by the Explosives Regulations 2014. It requires appropriate training from other agencies (including the Health and Safety Executive)

Firearms licensing administration and casework

Staff involved in firearms licensing administration and casework, and their supervisors, have an important role in firearms licensing. For example, they are often the first point of contact for enquiries and applications. They can also contribute to investigative activity that can help the assessment process.

Although titles and responsibilities may vary across forces, staff involved in firearms licensing administration and casework should:

  • recognise and raise any risk issues that arise when logging and managing enquiries, applications and renewals
  • collate information and intelligence around an application – for example, taking general practitioners’ (GPs) proformas, contacting applicants’ GPs for clarifications, checking whether referees are of good character, and interrogating systems. (For example, checking for convictions and information or intelligence relating to the applicant through force intelligence systems and open-source checks)
  • make decisions at the level that is authorised by their force

Partnership working 

Firearms licensing staff should access and assess information from other parts of the force, other forces and external partners to help inform assessments and decisions on suitability of applicants and certificate holders.

In some circumstances, the information will come directly to staff. For example, medical information from a GP or other medical professional registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) is an important component of the application form. (Note: an application cannot be considered without this information.)

In other circumstances, firearms licensing staff may need to be proactive. They may need to clarify or pursue information or a line of enquiry with an internal or external partner. For example, following up on vulnerability concerns with a safeguarding team.

Professional judgement helps to identify relevant partners and guide any interaction with them. This includes clues, curiosity and communication.

Firearms licensing staff should develop and maintain good working relationships with internal and external stakeholders. This can maximise the benefits of partnership working. Good working relationships can be achieved by, for example:

  • being open about the role and remit of firearms licensing
  • providing a rationale for any requests for information

There may be occasions when internal or external partners provide information to the firearms licensing department. If regular interaction with a partner is expected, it may be appropriate to develop an MOU.

An information sharing agreement (ISA) with relevant partners can be useful and allows both the police and partner organisation(s) to communicate issues and concerns relating to suitability and public safety. Information sharing must comply with GDPR, the Data Protection Act (2018) and Human Rights Act (1998).

Information management APP provides further advice and information on developing MOUs and ISAs, the policing purposes that underpin information sharing, and training for staff on data protection.

Ongoing effective partnership working can help:

  • gain a broader perspective on assessing suitability and subsequent decision making
  • encourage external partners to make proactive contact when they have information that could affect the suitability of a current certificate holder or applicant (this could form part of an MOU)

Firearms licensing staff should also liaise and meet with relevant stakeholders. For example, through an engagement plan that includes gun clubs and shooting organisations. This helps build good relationships and promote the underpinning aims and objectives around police involvement in firearms licensing activity.

Assessing suitability and applying professional judgement 

All staff involved in firearms licensing contribute to the assessment and decision-making processes regarding suitability and the management of risk. This can range from a case worker making an initial assessment of an application to a senior member of staff making a decision on an initial grant, refusal, revocation of a certificate, or whether to return a firearm and certificate following their seizure.

This section provides a framework to help all staff contribute to the suitability assessment process. The statutory guidance covers the key processes and criteria for assessing suitability and should be read in conjunction with this APP. The NDM provides a framework that can be used to examine and challenge decision making.

Staff should consider all available information to inform and contribute to the assessment. For example:

  • the application form
  • referees
  • the applicant, via the home or premises visit and interview
  • partners and family members
  • intelligence systems and open-source checks
  • partner agencies
  • practitioners including shooting clubs and organisations – for example, through club secretaries or club liaison officers
  • law and policy – for example, firearms legislation and Home Office guidance

These sources of information provide a starting point for assessing an applicant’s suitability. Professional judgement, informed by the best available information, is required to build on this initial assessment.

Evidence-based guidelines on vulnerability-related risks present three overlapping factors that inform professional judgement around risk. These are:

  • communication
  • curiosity
  • clues

The three responder-focused guidelines: communication, clues and curiosity

These three factors are not hierarchical, and they are potentially self-reinforcing. For example, good communication can reveal more clues, which may identify more avenues for investigation (curiosity). This can lead to more focused communication.

Potentially relevant factors from a firearms licensing perspective include but are not limited to the following.


Staff should develop and use communication skills to assess suitability. For example:

  • building rapport with the applicant
  • addressing and probing sensitive issues that are relevant to the application – for example, an individual’s past, health and vulnerability
  • active listening during the premises visit and interview
  • adopting a procedurally just approach – for example, being open, transparent and respectful
  • minimising bias and preconceptions


Staff should exercise professional curiosity to actively identify and investigate suitability. For example:

  • exploring and understanding the application and recommendations – for example, asking questions and keeping an open mind
  • seeking clarifications on any ambiguities during the licensing process
  • not accepting things at face value – enquiring deeply and challenging one’s own (and others’) assumptions


Staff should be alert to and understand the clues that may impact on suitability. For example:

  • previous criminal or alleged criminal behaviour
  • associations
  • medical conditions
  • clues related to drug or alcohol misuse, such as drunken or drug-related incidents
  • indicators of domestic abuse
  • clues that arise from open-source social media checks
  • clues that arise from credit or financial checks, such as debt collection and high-risk financial activity
  • signs of vulnerability and/or exploitation
  • information from other agencies (for example, multi-agency safeguarding hubs, family courts)

Firearms licensing processes 


Every grant or renewal application received by a firearms department must be recorded and checked by firearms licensing staff. These should be recorded on the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS) as soon as practicable. The grant or renewal process ends in a decision about whether a certificate is granted or refused.

The process that leads to this decision presents various opportunities to assess suitability. This section highlights some of these opportunities and processes. (These also apply to decisions on revocations and return of firearms.)

The statutory guidance should be read in conjunction with this APP as it covers the criteria for assessing suitability.


The Home Office provides a standard form for applying for a firearms certificate. Forces should have systems in place to receive:

  • applications (electronic and non-electronic)
  • payments
  • photos

Enquiries and checks for suitability by firearms licensing staff begin with the application.

These enquiries and checks should be sufficiently rigorous to provide FEOs with as much information as possible before the home visit of an applicant. These enquiries and checks should be informed by the statutory guidance.

Home visits

The Home Office statutory guidance provides information on when home visits are required. Home visits for grants or renewals should be conducted by the FEO.

During the visit, the FEO should cross check any information on the application form relating to suitability concerns). They should also check the applicant’s:

The FEO should be inquisitive and apply professional judgement to the identification of other sources of information that could be relevant to the application.

As part of the visit, the FEO may identify issues that are wider than firearms licensing. For example, they may notice signs of vulnerability or criminality. In these cases, the FEO should:

  • assess the impact of these issues on suitability
  • be aware of how and where to escalate any wider issues where appropriate

The FEO should record information collected during a visit. Any outstanding issues or actions as a result of the visit should be followed up. This should be done by the FEO or other members of the firearms licensing department in a timely manner.

Decision making 

Investigative activity, including checks and in-person visits, should inform the assessment of the applicant or certificate holder’s suitability. The decision to grant, refuse or renew will then be made by the post holder who has appropriate delegated authority.

If this investigative activity has not returned information that undermines or compromises the applicant’s suitability to acquire, possess and lawfully use a firearm, a firearms certificate should be granted or renewed.

If investigative activity and assessment of suitability have established information that puts in question the applicant’s suitability to acquire, possess or lawfully use a firearm, the decision will be to refuse the application or revoke the certificate, unless outstanding issues around suitability have been resolved.

In cases of refusal or revocation, sufficient rationale should be provided to the applicant. This should be clear and detailed enough to help them decide whether to appeal.

When considering the assessment on suitability, decision makers should apply professional judgement.

The majority of decisions may be straightforward. But the decision maker should:

  • be ready to challenge any discrepancies and seek clarification
  • remember all cases are unique and not be complacent in their decision-making

The NDM provides a framework that can be used to examine and challenge decision making.

Quality assurance

The strategic lead for firearms licensing or the firearms licensing manager should develop and own a quality assurance (QA) strategy that covers all aspects of firearms licensing. This will help the force meet the aims and objectives of firearms licensing. It also enables and encourages continuous improvement.

QA can help ensure that processes (for example, quality of intelligence checks) are being undertaken appropriately and that the correct decisions are being made – whether in relation to ‘routine’ or ‘complex’ applications or renewals. Dip sampling decisions made can help achieve this.

Decision making – increased complexity or risks to public safety 

Some cases may have greater complexity and/or potential risks to public safety. (For example, the decision to return firearms after removal.)

In these cases, decision makers (this is likely to be the firearms licensing manager for many decisions) should always:

Peer review and support can also help the decision maker. For example, seeking the view of experienced colleagues with knowledge of firearms licensing and/or decision making in other areas of policing.

In accordance with the statutory guidance on authorising decisions, the decision can also be referred to an officer or staff member senior to the firearms licensing manager with functional responsibility for firearms licensing. For example, the strategic lead.

Ongoing processes

Managing risk, monitoring suitability and QA

Certificates are issued for five years (three years for registered firearms dealers). But the need to monitor and assess risk is a continuous and ongoing process during this period. This should be achieved in two ways.

  1. Police systems (such as the Police National Database and the Police National Computer) and/or information or intelligence from internal or external partners and stakeholders may flag up issues on current certificate holders. This may affect their suitability.
  2. Some certificate holders may require extra checks during some, or all, of the licensing period. For example, to monitor any issues identified during the application process that could affect ongoing suitability if not reviewed. Forces should factor this checking into their SDA.

Based on risk assessment and their professional judgement, decision-makers (likely to be the firearms licensing manager) will need to take proportionate and appropriate action in response to any information identified during monitoring.

However, in any circumstances where it is assessed that there is a risk to public safety, firearms, certificates and ammunition must be removed.

As a result of monitoring, additional enquiries and investigative activity may be required. Any required investigative activity should involve the most appropriate staff. For example, in some cases there may be a requirement for other departments, such as public protection, to be involved. The progress, quality and outcome of any investigation should be monitored through processes agreed at the governance meetings.

Forces should also consider developing a dip sampling process to select and review current certificate holders. Forces should ensure there is an agreed process for this. This will support QA and could cover:

  • decisions made to grant or renew certificates (including temporary permits) and returning firearms
  • checking a certificate holder against the Police National Database, which may provide information around the involvement of certificate holders in incidents within and outside force boundaries
  • checking local systems, for example intelligence and incidents

Short notice removal of firearms and certificates 

Chief constables and/or the strategic lead for firearms licensing should ensure that advice is available to officers on the processes and legal options available to them when responding to incidents where:

  • a firearms certificate holder is involved
  • an officer believes the holder should not remain in possession of their firearm(s) and certificate because they may pose a risk to public safety (to others or themselves)

This advice should emphasise the underpinning aims and objectives of firearms licensing and the process officers should follow if there is time and opportunity to seek advice from their force’s firearms licensing department. For example, contact details for FEOs, staff with delegated authorities.

Need for immediate action

There may be circumstances where officers assess the need for immediate action that requires the removal of firearms and certificates to ensure public safety. Relevant examples could include but are not limited to:

  • alcohol or drug use
  • medical suitability
  • domestic abuse incidents
  • violence or threats of violence made to others, including those made online
  • ongoing and escalating disputes with neighbours
  • associations or links to organised crime groups
  • involvement in a crime where the conduct of the certificate holder is such that it would be a cause for concern if they were left in possession of their firearm

Note: Force procedures should be followed for the criminal use of firearms or immediate threats to life.

Options for short notice removal of firearms and certificates

If an officer assesses there is a risk to public safety, they have the following options to remove firearms and certificates:

  • seek voluntary surrender
  • revocation
  • use of legal powers to seize firearms and certificates

The NDM can be used to guide officers and staff (including those with delegated authority) on the most suitable action to take.

If seeking voluntary surrender of firearms and certificates, officers should engage with the individual and encourage voluntary surrender. They should also explain the rationale for why they are taking this course of action. Officers should ensure they have contingency options available to them should voluntary surrender be unsuccessful.

If voluntary surrender is unsuccessful, or it is not an appropriate option, there are legal options available to officers to remove the firearms and certificates. For example, revocation of the firearms certificate can be authorised by an individual with delegated authority.

Other options may be applicable, depending on circumstances. For example, if:

  • the firearm(s) has been used or suspected of use in a criminal act (section 19 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) and the officer is lawfully on the premises
  • the possession of the firearm or shotgun is not authorised by a shotgun or firearm certificate or, in the case of an air weapon which, because of its power level, must be held on certificate or with the authority of the Secretary of State (section 47 of the Firearms Act 1968)
  • a warrant has been issued by a magistrate (section 46 of the Firearms Act 1968)
  • it is required to prevent a breach of the peace (Common Law) – this applies when an act is committed or threatened, which either harms a person or is likely to cause such harm being done

Officers should also follow any force processes associated with the removal of a firearm(s) and certificate. For example:

  • obtaining/seizing certificates at the same time as firearm(s) and ammunition to prevent the purchase of more firearms
  • recording serial numbers to ensure all firearm(s) associated with the certificate holder have been removed
  • issuing of receipts and recording the removal, for example by using body-worn video or taking photographs
  • whether to remove firearms in person’s own gun slip or box, or attempt to dismantle the firearm(s) and any considerations around this
  • considerations around storage of removed firearms (for example, registered firearms dealer, police premises or other certificate holder whose suitability has been reassessed in relation to the circumstances)
  • ensuring all firearm(s) are made safe by a suitably qualified person

Regardless of the action taken, a slower time investigation by the firearms licensing department can ensure that any decision to return firearm(s) and certificates or revoke them is informed by the required information.

When firearms are removed from certificate holders, receipts must be issued as soon as practicable in accordance with the Home Office statutory guidance.


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