The European Commission, Firearms Directive amendments and fieldsports

The European Commission (EC) has suggested some changes to the EU Firearms Directive. While these proposals have not yet been adopted, it is worth considering how they might affect legislation in the UK if they do in fact become part of the Firearms Directive. What of the Firearms Directive amendments and fieldsports? The proposals outline a strengthening of the control of firearms across the entire EU, but as many changes feature discrepancies and contradictions it is also worth contemplating how they could impact popular fieldsports such as grouse shooting and deer stalking.

Firearms and medical tests

One proposal is to mandate that firearms applicants undergo a standardized medical test.  This would (presumably) be used to identify potential issues that people may have and tailor access to firearms accordingly.  Depending on the type and extent of these standardized tests, they may be something that is outside of the compliance capabilities of the current system. Without more information on this proposal, it is impossible to say for sure what the appropriate UK legislation in this area could be, which is a concern.

Sounds moderators required?

Another proposal is to bring “sound moderators” under the coverage of the Firearms Directive. Given that the UK already has legislation which classifies a sound moderator as an accessory, it is likely that the UK laws in this area are already in compliance with the Directive even if this proposal is adopted. Depending on the final format, additional legislation may be necessary, but at this point it seems that existing legislation will be sufficient.

Weapons collectors now included

A proposal which would probably bring about more change in UK laws is the proposal to bring collectors of firearms under the Directive. Although collectors are already required to hold a license in the UK—and thus we are likely compliant in that regard—this could end up changing what collectors are allowed to do: currently, collectors can own items such as deactivated weapons (for example, machine guns or antique shotguns that may be family heirlooms) as well as disguised weapons such as “walking stick firearms.”  However, under the proposed changes to the Directive, only approved museums would be able to own such items, and the items would be required to be deactivated.  It is also possible that individuals who collect various types of ammunition could be prohibited from doing so under the Directive.

Tighter rules on deactivated firearms

Another proposal is to tighten the standard for deactivating firearms before they are sold.  This proposal likely would not have a significant impact on UK legislation as the standards already in place are probably adequate to comply with the proposal.  If the current owner of a deactivated weapon decides to sell or transfer ownership thereof, at the time of the sale or transfer it is possible that the weapon would need to be brought into compliance with the standard imposed by the Directive.

Moving forward

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (“BASC”) is proactively taking steps to address these, and other, proposals.  By engaging in dialogue with The Home Office, the Department of Justice (Northern Ireland), The Federation of European hunting associations, and other sister organizations, BASC are working to promote safety and responsible ownership of firearms and the safe enjoyment of popular fieldsports.

BASC believe that the proper way to address the illegal use of firearms is to employ a separate legal instrument rather than changing the current Firearms Directive. Regardless of the mechanism used to combat the illegal ownership and use of firearms, it is necessary to accurately assess the impact and outcome of the mechanism in order to ensure that unintended outcomes (especially those which disproportionately and unfairly harm legitimate users of firearms) are minimized or avoided altogether.

Additional information about the proposed changes can be found on the BASC website, and BASC are currently urging members to get in touch with their MEPs to raise any concerns that may impact on their way of life, shooting hobbies and fieldsports in general.

You can stay up to date on the latest developments by visiting the EU website.

Bringing a shotgun into the UK for fieldsports

Firearms laws vary massively from one nation to the next, and if you are considering bringing a shotgun into the UK for fieldsports you should keep reading.

Exclusively Scottish can arrange every element of your trip to Scotland to enjoy fieldsports such as pheasant shooting, deer stalking and fishing. The service can include booking accommodation, arranging transportation, gun hire, non-shooting activities and visitor permits to allow you to bring your own shotgun or rifle into the UK.

Plan your shotgun permit request in advance

If however you want to arrange a permit yourself you should be aware that there are strict procedures that you must follow. To begin with, you should ensure that you have applied for the appropriate permit at least 8 weeks before your intended visit. Certain firearms are not allowed in the UK; if you are attempting to bring a prohibited firearm into the country you will be denied entry.  For this reason it is important that you fully and accurately complete the permit application process so that the police will be able to determine whether the firearm you wish to bring is permitted and can notify you of the result of your application.

To apply for the permit, use Form 107 [PDF]. Form 107 may be used for individuals or groups of people.  If you intend to apply for a permit you will need to have a resident of the UK act as your sponsor and submit your application to the firearms licensing department on your behalf.

The cost of a permit will vary depending on the number of people the permit is issued to, and a permit can be valid for up to 1 year, allowing for flexibility in planning and/or multiple visits to the country.  Be aware, however, that the police have the right to place restrictions on the permit.

Check for and correct any mistakes

You should sign your permit when you receive it and be sure that you carefully review it.  If it contains a mistake – such as an incorrect serial number – you need to have this addressed before you attempt to bring the firearm into the country. Failure to correct any error in a permit may result in you not being allowed to bring the firearm into the UK. 

What the permit doesn’t cover

Holding a firearms permit only allows you to bring a firearm when you visit the country or possess one while you are here. A permit does not allow you to purchase firearms while in the UK.  Certain permits will allow you to purchase certain types of firearms; for more information, you should contact the appropriate governmental authority.

When you visit a sovereign territory of the UK – such as Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man – you should note that your permit is not valid and you will need to seek the appropriate permission from the authorities in those territories.

If you wish to bring an air weapon (commonly called “BB gun” or “pellet gun” or “air rifle” in the U.S.) into the UK you should contact The British Association for Shooting and Conservation by calling +44 (0) 1244-573010 to verify whether it is permitted or not.  The law relating to air weapons is too complex to go into here; suffice to say that it will vary from one air weapon to the next.

There are specific rules that relate to the transfers of shotguns or ammunition to holders of a visitor’s permit.  These will vary depending on the specifics of each situation and are also too complex to address here.

For peace of mind have a professional apply for you

If you are still thinking of bringing a shotgun into the UK for fieldsports but you are unsure of any element of the proceedure or have doubts about completing form 107, then feel free to get in touch with us and Exclusively Scottish can help arrange the necessary paperwork as part of your fieldsports trip to the Scottish Borders.