Firearm cer­tifi­cates: do you know what type you have?

A ticket’s a ticket, right? Wrong! Rod Green­wood takes a closer look at the de­tails – and the re­spon­si­bil­ity they put on the holder

Sporting Shooter - - Gamekeeping - WITH ROD GREEN­WOOD

They say that a lit­tle knowl­edge can be a dan­ger­ous thing and this is par­tic­u­larly true when it comes to firearms cer­tifi­cates (FACs). It is sur­pris­ing the num­ber of FAC hold­ers that do not know what type of cer­tifi­cate they have or what it per­mits them to do. This can un­for­tu­nately lead to in­ad­ver­tent breaches of con­di­tions, which could ul­ti­mately re­sult in re­vo­ca­tion of the FAC. FACs are granted through­out Eng­land by firearms li­cens­ing depart­ments for the var­i­ous po­lice con­stab­u­lar­ies. On the whole, FACs will be as­sessed and granted in line with the Home Of­fice’s Guide to Firearms Li­cens­ing Law, April 2016. How­ever, be­cause each chief con­sta­ble is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for firearms issues within his or her patch, ad­di­tional (non-stan­dard) con­di­tions may be ap­plied. There are ef­fec­tively two types of FAC: ‘Re­stricted/Closed’ and ‘Open’.

Re­stricted cer­tifi­cates

It is likely that the first FAC you will be granted will be a Re­stricted/Closed vari­ant. So what does that mean? Well, a Re­stricted/Closed FAC re­stricts you to shoot­ing on cer­tain pieces of ground that have been ap­proved by the po­lice for par­tic­u­lar cal­i­bres and where you have law­ful author­ity to shoot.

Re­stricted/Closed FACs can usu­ally be iden­ti­fied by sim­i­lar word­ing to the fol­low­ing: ‘The cal­i­bre ri­fle/com­bi­na­tion/smooth-bore gun/sound moder­a­tor and am­mu­ni­tion shall be used for shoot­ing ver­min such as fox, ground game, deer and any other law­ful quarry, and for ze­ro­ing prac­tice on ranges, on land deemed suit­able by the chief of­fi­cer of po­lice for the area where the land is si­t­u­ated and over which the holder has law­ful author­ity to shoot’.

It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the cer­tifi­cate holder to en­sure that the ground he/she in­tends to shoot on has been ap­proved by the po­lice for the cal­i­bre in question.

Shoot­ing men­tors

Your first FAC may have an ad­di­tional con­di­tion that re­quires you to be ac­com­pa­nied by a men­tor while out shoot­ing un­til such time that he or she feels that you have de­vel­oped suf­fi­cient ex­pe­ri­ence to go solo. A men­tor will be an ex­pe­ri­enced firearms user, who is in pos­ses­sion of an Open FAC.

One of the pit­falls of a men­tor­ing con­di­tion is that the Re­stricted/Closed cer­tifi­cate holder may in­ad­ver­tently breach their con­di­tions by ac­com­pa­ny­ing the men­tor onto ground that has not been deemed suit­able by the chief of­fi­cer of po­lice for the cal­i­bre they are us­ing. Re­mem­ber, the Re­stricted/Closed con­di­tion ap­plies wher­ever the holder goes. To over­come this, the Re­stricted/ Closed FAC holder should take the men­tor out on ground that they know to be ap­proved and they have law­ful author­ity to shoot over.

‘Your first FAC may have an ad­di­tional con­di­tion that re­quires you to be ac­com­pa­nied by a men­tor while out shoot­ing’

The ‘law­ful quarry’ amend­ment So what about the ‘any other law­ful quarry’ sec­tion and why is it im­por­tant to have it? In 2012/13, the na­tional lead of the UK Firearms Ex­plo­sives Li­cens­ing Work­ing Group (FELWG) and chief con­sta­ble of Hamp­shire Con­stab­u­lary, Andy Marsh, de­cided that there was too much ad­min­is­tra­tive bur­den in firearms li­cens­ing and that stan­dard­i­s­a­tion should be ap­plied across all li­cens­ing depart­ments.

In Oc­to­ber 2013, a re­vi­sion of the Home Of­fice’s Guide on Firearms Li­cens­ing Law was pub­lished, which in­cluded the ‘any other law­ful quarry’ (AOLQ) con­di­tion. AOLQ per­mits a cer­tifi­cate holder to shoot any quarry that is law­ful (where they are au­tho­rised to shoot).

While guid­ance is pro­vided on ap­pro­pri­ate cal­i­bres for spe­cific quarry, it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the shooter to know what cal­i­bre is suit­able for which quarry, and when cer­tain quarry is law­ful. This in­cludes the need to ob­tain or rely upon a li­cence from the rel­e­vant li­cens­ing author­ity to per­mit the shoot­ing of pro­tected species.

For ex­am­ple, if a cer­tifi­cate holder wanted to shoot a pro­tected species and didn’t have the AOLQ con­di­tion, they would have to sub­mit their cer­tifi­cate (in­clud­ing any li­cence) to their firearms li­cens­ing depart­ment to have a spe­cific amend­ment added. Thank­fully, most firearms li­cens­ing depart­ments have now adopted AOLQ as stan­dard and will amend cer­tifi­cate re­newals with this con­di­tion. Open cer­tifi­cates

Open FACs are usu­ally what most hold­ers strive for, as this vari­a­tion to their cer­tifi­cate per­mits them to shoot on any land where they have law­ful author­ity. Open FACs are granted to those who have demon­strated com­pe­tence with par­tic­u­lar firearms and the Home Of­fice has made it very clear in its guid­ance that the time a cer­tifi­cate is held should not be a fac­tor in de­cid­ing whether to open some­one’s FAC and that each case should be con­sid­ered on its in­di­vid­ual mer­its.

Some Re­stricted/Closed FAC hold­ers wrongly think that once their men­tor­ing con­di­tion has been re­moved, they have an Open vari­a­tion – this mis­take is when in­ad­ver­tent breaches of­ten oc­cur, so be care­ful to check your cer­tifi­cate care­fully.

Open FACs can usu­ally be iden­ti­fied by sim­i­lar word­ing to the fol­low­ing: ‘The cal­i­bre ri­fle/ com­bi­na­tion/smooth-bore gun/sound moder­a­tor and am­mu­ni­tion shall be used for shoot­ing ver­min such as fox, ground game, deer and any other law­ful quarry, and for ze­ro­ing prac­tice on ranges, on land over which the holder has law­ful author­ity to shoot’.

In some cases, a holder may be granted an Open vari­a­tion on his/her rim­fire cal­i­bre/s but not on the cen­tre­fires. Make sure you check the con­di­tions care­fully be­fore adopt­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to your shoot­ing.

Not all hold­ers need to have their FACs opened up as they only ever shoot on one piece of land, such as game­keep­ers.

Make sure you know which cal­i­bres are le­gal for your quarry Some re­stric­tions might stip­u­late shoot­ing from a high seat

Some re­stric­tions de­mand that you shoot with a men­tor

Train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence may help to se­cure an Open ticket

The type of shoot­ing you do may de­ter­mine the type of FAC you are granted

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