Lancashire police have recently been advertising the fact that they are seizing air rifles, particularly in rural areas.  The lawfulness of such seizures can at times be questionable.

Where a rifle has the muzzle energy of the air rifle is greater than 12 ft lbs (or over 6 ft lbs for an air pistol), a license or certificate from the police is needed before one can be possessed lawfully.  The position is different however for a low powered air rifle.

For low powered airguns, no license is required.

S19 of The Firearms Act 1968 states:

A person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse (the proof whereof lies on him) he has with him in a public place

(a) a loaded shot gun,

(b) an air weapon (whether loaded or not),

(c )any other firearm (whether loaded or not) together with ammunition suitable for use in that firearm, or

(d) an imitation firearm.

Before seizing a low powered air rifle police should always try to make checks as to whether or not there is a reasonable excuse for carrying such a rifle.

A reasonable excuse may include:-

  • Possession whilst transporting the air rifle to/from a shooting event.
  • Possession whilst transporting the air rifle to/from farming land where pest control needs to be done.
  • Carrying out pest control at the material time (this is particularly prominent in rural areas).
  • Taking the rifle to be cleaned
  • Taking the rifle to a dealer or merchant
  • Transporting the rifle to/from point of purchase or sale

Each case is specific to the facts and it is always helpful to obtain specialist legal advice if any firearm has been seized by the police.  It might be that a person has a reasonable excuse but does not know it!

Specialist legal advice is also needed in case you are likely to be prosecuted.  A prosecution can be avoided in a number of ways.  An example would be where the contravention of the law is technical and there has been no risk to public safety and the offence resulted from an oversight or misunderstanding.  If you feel you are at risk of prosecution it is wise to telephone a solicitor who specialises in firearms law. Farleys’ experts can help in this area, call 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.