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Firearms Certificates Statistics, Scotland, 2001



10. Notes on statistics used in this bulletin

Accuracy of the statistics

1. The statistics in this bulletin are provided by each Scottish police force in an annual aggregate return to the Scottish Executive Justice Department. They are subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system.

Regulations on the issue of firearm and shot gun certificates

2. All persons acquiring or in possession of a firearm or shot gun 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.

3. For weapons covered by Section 1 of the 1968 Act and Section 2 of the 1988 Act, which includes rifles, large magazine smooth bore guns and specially dangerous air weapons, 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).

4. Shot gun certificates, covered by Section 2 of the 1968 Act and Section 2 of the 1988 Act, permit the holder to possess any number of shot guns, 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 shot gun. Nor may applications be granted or renewed unless the Chief Constable is satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to possess a shot gun without danger to public safety or to the peace (Section 3 of the 1988 Act). The certificate specifies the description of the shot guns including, if known, the identification numbers of the guns.

5. 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 granted by the Secretary of State after careful enquiries by the police.

6. Following the Dunblane incident changes to the existing firearms legislation were introduced to enhance public safety. As a result, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 ("the 1997 Act") was implemented and thereafter the Firearms (Amendment)(No.2) Act 1997 ("the 1997 (No.2) Act"). Under the 1997 Act, all pistols (otherwise referred to as "handguns") over .22 calibre were banned with effect from 1 October 1997. A hand-in scheme between 1 July and 30 September 1997 resulted in the surrender of 6,262 large calibre handguns in Scotland, while 1,751 small calibre handguns were also handed in voluntarily. Similarly, there was a second hand-in period between 1 February and 28 February 1998 for the surrender of all small calibre handguns (up to and including .22 calibre). The 1997 (No.2) Act came into effect from 1 March 1998. The Scottish surrender saw 1,013 small calibre guns handed in. A number of types of handgun were exempted from the 1997 (No.2) Act including muzzle-loading guns, shot pistols, slaughtering instruments, firearms used for the humane killing of animals, trophies of war etc.

7. Firearm and shot gun certificates are valid for five years but can be renewed on application for a further five years.

* The estimates of proportion of firearm and shot gun certificates due to expire as given by:

1996 percentage of certificates renewed =

Actual number of renewals for 2001

x 100

(1996 new applications + 1996 renewal applications).

For example :

2001 firearm renewal percentage =


x 100 = 68 %

(1,600 + 8,587)

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 shot gun certificate can be aligned with the holder's firearm certificate (Section 11 of the 1988 Act).

8. Section 13 of the 1988 Act increased the registration period for dealers from 1 to 3 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.

9. A firearm or shot gun 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 legally held.

10. 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.

11. There is no charge for a variation to a Visitors' Permit for a firearm or shot gun 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 shot guns authorised on the permit, or which extends the expiry date of the permit, then this should be treated as a new application.

12. The following symbol is used throughout the tables in the bulletin.


= nil