UK: Get Them At It!

Last Updated: 24 April 2002
Article by James Taylor

We are constantly urged to bring newcomers into shooting. The best way of garnering support for our sports is to share them with our friends and acquaintances. There is an easier, and more likely start to this process than waking them up hours before the crack of dawn on a freezing winter’s morning to travel to a far flung muddy field. We can simply dish up excellent, nutritious, chemical-free meals to our friends and explain that we have harvested some of Nature’s free-range bounty to provide it.

There will come a point, however, when someone who has sat back in comfort having enjoyed such a repast, who envies you your satisfaction of knowing that you have taken part in the pattern of nature as you ought, will suggest that you could introduce them to shooting.

At such a time your heart should leap within you. You should lose no time in getting such a convert hooked on shooting, and your first thought will be for a visit to the range or to the clayshooting ground. After you have done that, you can then wake them up hours before the crack of dawn on a freezing winter’s morn etc etc.

One aspect of firearms law continues to cause confusion and I touched upon it in my first article in Countryman’s Weekly. My first article was intended to show that with a little thought, shooting law problems can often be avoided.

I talked about how you could go about lending such a newcomer a gun, and this has provoked some enquiries. This article will go into a little more depth, therefore.

The current law is not consistent, and it is not helpful to anyone who wants to introduce a friend to live quarry shooting. It is of course sensible that a newcomer should achieve a degree of proficiency on inanimate clay or paper targets before trying a hand at live game or vermin. It is the duty of the sportsman not to shoot unless he can be as sure as possible of a clean kill.

Of course, under the law, anyone over 17 (apart from people with certain classes of convictions) can borrow a rifle from the lawful occupier of the land or his servant, and use it in his presence. Thus an employee of the landowner, who has himself a FAC covering the rifle, acting on the landowner’s instructions, would "represent" the lawful occupier in that situation and could lend an estate rifle (i.e. owned by the lawful occupier) on behalf of his employer.

In respect of shotguns, apart from clayshooting at a police approved shoot, the gun can only be borrowed, again by someone over 17, from the lawful occupier in person, and not from a "servant". The occupier must therefore be a certificate holder himself.

I outlined in my first article how it would be possible, if you were going out shooting with the occupier of land who was himself a SGC holder, to lend him your gun which he could in turn lend to a friend of yours who was also out with you. Remember too that the law has defined "presence" as within sight and earshot.

The Firearms Consultative Committee (FCC) point out that this concept of "occupier" is outdated in modern society. It smacks to us of the old concept of having one’s own land and tends to work only in favour of the landowner or tenant of formal shooting rights. I am pleased to say that their latest report (which can be downloaded from the Internet at ) contains some useful recommendations on this very issue. I would suggest that all shooters take a look at this document. We should remember that a change in the law would require legislation. As we are all aware in the countryside, the Government is far too busy dealing with important issues of the day like health, crime, education and their ongoing war on both terrorism and foxhunters, to contemplate making shooter’s lives easier. That is not to say that time would not be found if it were a question of making shooter’s lives harder!

All of this debate took place in the context of instructing young people to shoot safely. The report points out that many young people have to get a certificate because of the current law, when if they were only permitted to shoot under supervision they would not need a certificate.

The proposed change to the law would allow anyone over 21 with 3 years’ experience in shooting to "give temporary possession of his gun to anyone else, subject to any conditions on his certificate, for activities connected with quarry shooting. For a recipient under 18 this would require direct one-to-one supervision and over 18 this would require the FAC holder to be in the presence of the recipient." There is a similar provision with regard to shotguns.

OK, it is far from perfect, for example the current age of 17 for acquisition of firearms and shotguns is not challenged, so why is the age in the recommendation set at 18 ?

However, this proposal would help us quarry-shooters enormously in teaching young people to shoot, and in encouraging our friends to take up the sport which so needs new followers.

For further information on firearms law, please contact Mr James Taylor, Firearms Expert at Bevans solicitors.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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