Airgun law & security - an update
PUBLISHED: 16:02 01 December 2020
Gary Chillingworth explains the latest updates to airgun security and law, including how to legally store your air rifle, how to transport it safely, and where you can and can’t shoot an air rifle!
A few weeks ago, I had an email from Phill Wood, ‘Gary, I have just purchased my first rifle. How should I store it and can I take it on the bus to my parents who have land to shoot on?’ So, I thought it would be a good opportunity to dig out an old article on security and update it.
WHERE CAN I LEGALLY STORE AN AIR RIFLE?
When I was growing up, air rifles were left behind sofas, hidden under beds or at best thrown in the back of cupboards. This was legal in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but since the introduction of the ‘Crime and Security Act 2010’ it is very much illegal. The Crime and Securities act states that it is an offence for a person in charge of an air rifle to fail to take ‘reasonable precautions’ to prevent someone under the age of 18 from gaining access it.
So, what are reasonable precautions? Personally, I have a gun cabinet. I bought it a few years back from eBay for £80, and it secures all of my rifles and ammunition in one place, On top of this, it keeps my wife happy because all of my shooting equipment is kept together and is not strewn about all over the house. The thing is, though, not everyone has the space for a cabinet, and if that is the case, then what are your other options?
Well, a hard case is a great idea because it will thermally regulate your rifle and keep it safe from bumps and scrapes, and if you put a lockable padlock and chain on it, it is considered to be secured. I have a Flambeau hard case with a vintage rifle under my bed. It has a chain and this is attached to the bed frame. In reality, it would not stop a serious criminal from getting to my rifle, but it will stop my 6-year-old son, and if I did end up in court, I could argue that I took reasonable precautions. Incidentally, my son is now 6 feet tall, 14 stone and could lift the bed with one hand!
If you only have a gun slip, though, then a simple bicycle chain through the trigger guard and attached to an immovable object is better then nothing, or if you have a spare cupboard, then put a bolt with a lock on it. The words ‘reasonable precautions’ are ambiguous and are hard to argue, so just make sure that someone can’t just grab your rifle and run off with it.
Who can own and shoot an air rifle or pistol?
The law states that you have to be over the age of 18 to own or rent an air rifle. If you are between the ages of 14 and 17, you can borrow a rifle and use it unsupervised, but you may still not buy, rent or be given an air rifle as a gift.
Under the age of 14, you may still use an air rifle or pistol, but you must be supervised at all times by a person who is 21 or older. Personally, I think the 21-year-old age limit is wrong; you could have a member of the armed forces come back from Afghanistan where they have been in charge of weapons of war, but on return restricted from taking a sibling out shooting. However, that is only my opinion, and the law is the law.
Where can I shoot my AIR rifle?
This section is extremely important. The first rule of shooting is – you must have permission of the landowner to shoot on their land. In the past, you could take your rifle to common land and pop a few rabbits and this was looked upon as a ‘spot of poaching’, and the local bobby would give you a slap on the wrist. Nowadays, though, it is classed as armed trespass and the law treats air rifles and pistols as firearms. If you use one in a place where you do not have permission to shoot, you could very well find yourself surrounded by armed police.The CPS will consider a person shooting on land without permission as armed trespass and this carries a three-month prison term and a £2,500 fine.
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Can you shoot AM AIR RIFLE at home?
The answer is ‘yes’. It is perfectly legal to shoot in your back garden as long as you abide by certain restrictions. Firstly, whenever you shoot, your pellet must not leave your boundary. If you shoot your rifle and the pellet goes over your fence, then you are in breach of the Firearms Act. So, if you shoot in the back garden make sure you have an adequate back-stop.
It is also against the law, in England and Wales, to fire an air rifle or pistol within 50 feet of the centre of a highway, if this could result in someone being injured, interrupted or endangered. The interesting word here is ‘interrupted’. If you are shooting in your garden and a passerby hears a shot and a ping of a pellet hitting a metal target, this could cause them distress and under the act, this would be classed as ‘an interruption’. So, if you are going to shoot in your garden and there are people who could hear, you, you have to be very careful. Purchase a rifle that is naturally quiet or has a sound moderator fitted.
Instead of using a metal target, use a large box, filled with sand or dirt as your target holder, place a metal plate in the middle to prevent the pellet from going all the way through, and then you can attach a printed target to the front of box. The sand or earth will deaden the sound of the pellet strike and when the box becomes too damaged by pellets to continue, you can recycle it and get another from the local supermarket.
If you live in council or rented accommodation, you must check with your local authority or landlord because many councils ban the use of air rifles in their properties, and some tenants have been evicted because of this.
Transporting your AIR rifle SAFELY
It goes without saying that you should never walk around a public space with your rifle on display. If you drive to a shoot or to a friend’s house, keep the rifle in a slip or case when you are moving it from your car to where you want to go.
When the rifle or pistol is in the car, never keep it loaded, and it is a good idea to keep your ammunition in the glove box. Also, it is recommended that you keep all magazines unloaded. It is perfectly legal to transport your rifle in your car, but it must be stowed either in the boot or in a case. In other words, not in a position where you can just grab it from the driver’s seat. If you do not have a car and rely on public transport, you will need to contact either the bus or train company to see if it is allowed for you to transport a rifle on their service.
My day job is that of a train driver and I know for a fact, that Greater Anglia does not like people with airguns on their trains. Some shooters use guitar cases to hide their rifles, and if you need to move through built up areas, it can be a good idea as long as you are legal. I also have a friend who plays airsoft with a tommy-gun and he uses a violin case, so it’s not uncommon.
If you need any more information then speak to your local police firearms officer. They are helpful, but very busy and as always, I strongly suggest you join a local club because not only will the members give you tons of advice, but you will also have somewhere that is nice and legal to shoot.