Safe and sure firearms policy must be aim

29 January 1999

Safe and sure firearms policy must be aim

Out of sight, out of mind is

particularly apt when it

comes to secure storage of

shotguns and rifles.

Geoff Ashcroft discusses

firearms security with

Phil Gardiner of

Thames Valley Police

UNDER the Firearms Rules 1998, a "safe keeping" condition is attached to all firearms and shotgun certificates.

For general firearms, this condition requires the gun and ammunition to which the certificate applies to be stored securely to prevent, as far as is reasonably practicable, unauthorised people taking and using them.

The same condition applies to shotguns, but surprisingly, not shotgun cartridges.

Failing to meet a condition of such a certificate constitutes a criminal offence which carries a penalty of up to six months in prison or a fine – or both. And your gun licence could be revoked.

But while outright definitions of "secure storage" remain at the discretion of your local police force – which is also responsible for renewing your gun licence – it is worth taking a pro-active approach to firearm safety, making sure you stay ahead of the game.

Phil Gardiner is firearms inquiry officer for Thames Valley Police. He gets to check many farm installations, with a view to granting and renewing firearm and shotgun licences.

"The majority of firearms licence holders like to be seen to be doing the right thing and as a result, will ensure they have more than adequate gun security," says Mr Gardiner.

"This is particularly important on farms, where many premises are in remote locations," he says. "Guns have also gone missing from backs of Land Rovers."

But while preventing non-licence holders or other members of the household from using guns remains the major part of the security equation, theres the value of the gun to consider too.

"It is our policy at Thames Valley to recommend the use of a purpose-built steel gun cabinet, wherever possible," says Mr Gardiner. "Its the safest and most secure option – provided it is properly installed and the cabinets construction meets the relevant British Standard."

By properly installed, Mr Gardiner refers to the use of expanding bolts to secure the cabinet to a brick or concrete block wall, and out of view of casual visitors – preferably in a walk-in wardrobe, cellar or other room without windows.

"The idea is to make the gun cabinet as safe as possible – theres little point in locking the gun away if a thief can simply steal the cabinet and its contents," he says. "If the cabinet can be secured into the corner of a room, then it becomes even harder for anyone to lever the unit off the wall."

In addition to the cabinet, other types of security device include gun clamps and trigger guards – but these are considered by Mr Gardiner to be less of a deterrent.

"They only cover areas of the gun, which means the firearm can still be tampered with," he explains.

"When guns are not in use, they really should be locked away out of sight and out of mind – and certainly not slipped under the bed," he says. "Convenience must be over-looked in the interests of everyones safety."

Francis Lovel, of gunsmiths Dunmore of Abingdon, says his three-gun cabinet has become one of the most popular choices for secure gun storage.

"In recent years, we have seen a shift towards cabinets as the preferred choice of gun storage," says Mr Lovel. "Although trigger guards and gun clamps also offer a useful level of protection, people are showing greater responsibility to ensure when not in use, their guns are secured out of sight."

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