Home Office Firearms Guidance ‘ignores case law’

A key Home Office document on firearms law appears to ignore a court decision that goes against a government ban on certain types of club gun, it has emerged.

The Guide on Firearms Licensing Law 2014, most recently updated in October last year, contains this provision on the use of long-barrelled pistols (LBPs) as club firearms:

It should also be noted that section 15(1) of the 1988 Act, as amended, does not apply to the use of long barrelled pistols or section 1 shotguns used for target shooting

This sentence appears to contradict the outcome of the case R v Wells (2010), where Mike Wells, secretary of the Sportsman’s Association, was unsuccessfully prosecuted for transferring a Browning Buckmark LBP onto Kensington Rifle & Pistol Club’s firearm certificate (FAC).

The Met Police claimed that the Buckmark was not a “rifle” and so could not be held on the FAC of a club approved for target shooting with rifles. Wells was cleared, and later wrote in the July 2013 edition of the Sportsman’s Association newsletter:

The jury were asked whether the Browning was a rifle or a pistol. The jury agreed it was a rifle. I was acquitted.

Home Office-approved rifle clubs are given permission by the government to take part in target shooting activities with smallbore rifles, fullbore rifles or muzzle-loading pistols. It is the police and Home Office position that anything which does not fall within these categories cannot be held as a club firearm or shared in the same way that club firearms can be.

Editor’s notes

If I was doing this professionally I’d get a comment from the Home Office on this – which would probably deny there was anything wrong with the guidance – and seek a “professional” comment from a firearms lawyer, who may or may not say that I’m talking complete cobblers to the extent where this wouldn’t even get published.

As this is a blog and I’m writing it in a few slack moments at lunchtime, however, none of those distinguishing features are present. Take it as you will.

It is worth noting that as R v Wells was not an appeal case, the judge’s decision is not a binding piece of case law. Nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice, either.

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