5. Annex: Notes on Statistics Used in this Bulletin
5.1 Within the definition of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended), a "firearm" means a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged. It includes any prohibited weapon, any component part of such a weapon and any accessory to such a weapon designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by the firing of the weapon.
It is - with certain statutory exceptions - an offence to possess, purchase, or acquire any firearm or ammunition to which Section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968 applies without holding a firearm certificate.
Section 1 of the 1968 Act applies to all firearms except a shotgun or an air gun.
A "shotgun" is defined as a smooth-bore gun (not being an air gun) which: (i) has a barrel not less than 24 inches in length and does not have any barrel with a bore exceeding two inches in diameter; (ii) either has no magazine or has a non-detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges; and (iii) is not a revolver gun. Other smooth-bore guns may require a firearm certificate.
It is - with certain statutory exceptions - an offence for a person to possess, purchase, or acquire any shotgun without holding a shotgun certificate.
Accuracy of the statistics:
5.2 The statistics presented in this bulletin are provided by each of the eight Scottish police forces in an annual aggregate return to the Scottish Government's Justice Analytical Services Division.
5.3 The current recording process within the Tayside Police area allows the retrieval of information for variations for which a fee is charged. It does not provide details of 'one for one' variations nor requests for authority to possess additional firearms submitted as part of a renewal or grant application. The formula previously used for recording such figures has been reviewed and is no longer considered to be robust enough to accurately reflect the number of one to one variations within the Tayside Police area.
5.4 A software problem in 2005 and 2006 affected the data submitted by Fife Constabulary. Subsequently, the number of applications, variations and cancellations for both firearm and shotgun certificates are not wholly consistent with the totals reported. The force resolved the problem for the provision of 2007 data.
5.5 A software problem in 2009 affected the European Firearm Passes (EFP) data submitted by Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. The number of EFP cancellations in 2009 has been revised to six (replacing the previously published figure of five), thus reducing the total number of passes in force at the end of the year to 90.
5.6 Strathclyde police force introduced a new Firearms Licensing System (SHOGUN) on 31 March 2010. At present, the system is unable to distinguish between grants of new European Firearm Passes and renewal/variation applications. As a result, all EFP applications issued have been treated as a new European Firearm Pass.
5.8 The cancellation of a firearm or shotgun certificate is undertaken by the holder; revocations are at the authority of the Chief Constable and occur in instances where it is believed that the holder should no longer be allowed to possess a weapon.
5.9 A firearm or shotgun certificate permits the holder to possess one or more weapons, thus changes in the number of certificates will not necessarily reflect changes in the number of weapons held legally.
5.10 It is accepted that the total number of firearms covered by certificates will include an element of double counting, i.e. two or more individuals may each hold a certificate which permits them to possess the same firearm weapon. A certificate allows the holder to either possess or authorises them to purchase or acquire a weapon or a number of weapons.
5.11 The population data used to calculate the rate figures provided in Tables 2, 5 and 7 are the mid-2010 population estimates prepared by the General Register Office for Scotland: http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/population/estimates/mid-year/2010/index.html.
5.13 The following data (taken from Firearm Certificate Statistics, Scotland, 2010) does not feature in this bulletin but was referred to for contextual purposes:
- number of applications for Visitors' Permits from both EC and non-EC residents in 2010 for firearms and shotguns;
- number of European Firearm Passes on issue in 2010.
5.14 The following symbol is used throughout the tables in this bulletin.
- = nil
Regulations on the issue of firearm and shotgun certificates:
5.15 All persons acquiring or in possession of a firearm or shotgun must have a certificate issued by the Chief Constable for the police force area in which the person lives, unless they are otherwise exempt. Persons sentenced to any form of custody for a period of three years or more may be prohibited from possessing firearms for a period of up to life, depending upon the sentence.
5.16 There are certain conditions applicable to weapons covered by Section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968 and Section 2 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 (which includes rifles, large magazine smooth bore guns, and especially dangerous air weapons). In particular, the Chief Constable must be satisfied that an applicant has good reason for wanting a weapon, is fit to be entrusted with it and that the public safety or the peace will not be endangered. The certificate lists the number, type and serial number of each weapon held and any conditions attached (a standard condition is that weapons and ammunition are held in a secure place when not in use).
5.17 A certificate is only required for air weapons that are of a type declared by the Secretary of State under the Dangerous Air Weapons Rules 1969 (as amended) to be specifically dangerous. The vast majority of air weapons held in Scotland do not require a certificate. Since 20 January 2004 the sale, manufacture and import of Self Contained Air Cartridge (SCAC) air weapons has been banned. Individuals had until 30 April 2004 to surrender these weapons or apply for a licence. This has had the result of significantly increasing the number of air weapons possessed on certificate compared to previous years.
5.18 Shotgun certificates covered by Section 2 of the 1968 Act and Section 2 of the 1988 Act permit the holder to possess any number of shotguns, which can include pump‑action and self‑loading weapons which have a magazine which is incapable of holding more than two cartridges but excluding large magazine smooth bore guns. Applications may not be granted or renewed if a Chief Constable has reason to believe that the applicant is prohibited by the Firearms Acts from possessing a shotgun. Nor may applications be granted or renewed unless the Chief Constable is satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to possess a shotgun without danger to public safety or to the peace (Section 3 of the 1988 Act). The certificate specifies the description of the shotguns including, if known, the identification numbers of the guns.
5.19 Certain types of weapons (e.g. machine guns) are prohibited under Section 5 of the 1968 Act, as amended by Section 1 of the 1988 Act; their possession can only be authorised by the Secretary of State or Scottish Ministers after careful enquiries by the police.
5.20 Following the Dunblane incident in 1996, changes to the existing firearms legislation were introduced to enhance public safety. As a result, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 was implemented and thereafter the Firearms (Amendment)(No.2) Act 1997. Under these Acts, all pistols (otherwise referred to as "handguns") were banned. A number of types of handgun were exempted from the Act including muzzle-loading guns, shot pistols, slaughtering instruments, firearms used for the humane killing of animals, trophies of war etc.
Regulations on the renewal, cancellation, revocation, and variation of firearm and shotgun certificates:
5.21 It should be noted that amendments to firearm regulations in January 1995 increased the validity period of firearm and shotgun certificates from three to five years. This effectively meant that there were no certificate renewals in either 1998 or 1999 and this in turn has had the cyclical effect of both increasing the number of certificate renewals, cancellations and certificates on issue in certain years, whilst reducing the number in the intervening years.
5.22 To alter the number and type of weapons held on a firearm certificate, an application for a variation must be made to the Chief Constable. A fee is charged where the variation increases the number of firearms authorised by the certificate. The expiry date of a shotgun certificate can be aligned with the holder's firearm certificate (Section 11 of the 1988 Act).
Regulations on firearm dealer certificates:
5.23 Section 13 of the 1988 Act increased the registration period for firearm dealers from one to three years. The grounds for refusal for new applications for registration were extended and a register of transactions must be retained for at least 5 years. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 introduced a requirement for anyone selling or transferring air weapons by way of trade and/or business to register with the police as a firearms dealer. This requirement came into effect on 1 October 2007, although businesses were able to start the registration process from 6 April 2007.
Regulations on Visitor Permits and European Firearm Passes:
5.24 The Firearms Act (Amendment) Regulations 1992, which came into force on 1 January 1993, amended firearms legislation in Great Britain to meet the requirement of the EC Weapons Directive, which controls the acquisition and possession of weapons in EC Member States.
5.25 There is no charge for a Visitor Permit variation when an amendment is made to the existing conditions specified on the permit (excluding numbers of firearms authorised and expiry date). If a change is required which increases the number of firearms or shotguns authorised on the permit, or which extends the expiry date of the permit, then this is treated as a new application.
5.26 From January 1993, any EC resident who wants to buy or acquire a category B firearm (e.g. short and semi-automatic rifles, carbines and smooth bore guns) in another EC State must, unless they are exempt under the EC Firearms Directive, be able to show that they have the agreement of the authority within their state of residence to purchase or acquire a firearm in another EC State. This agreement is obtained from the local Chief Constable for the area in which they reside and is called an Article 7 Authority. Information relating to the authority of a person to purchase or acquire a firearm/shotgun when in another EC State was first collected centrally in 1994.
Email: Steven Morrison