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Shotgun and firearms licence

This is a short information page about applying for a shotgun or firearms licence.

It forms part of our information section on other areas of life affected by a criminal record.

Who do I apply to?

To apply for a shotgun or firearms licence, you must apply to your local Police force. For an example of this, see the Sussex Police Firearms Licensing page.

For further information about the application process, have a look at the GOV.UK website here.

Can I apply for a licence if I have a criminal record?

Section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968 prohibits a person from possession of any type of firearm if you have been given a custodial sentence when convicted of a criminal offence.

  • If you have received a custodial sentence (including a suspended sentence) of between 3 months and 3 years then you are prohibited for a period of 5 years from the date you are released.
  • If you have received a custodial sentence of 3 years or more then you are prohibited for life, from the date of release.

The prohibition may be lifted on application to the Crown Court. For further advice you should consult a solicitor.

What do I need to disclose to the police?

All previous convictions must be declared on the application form. It is an offence under Section 28A(7) of the Firearms Acts 1968-1997 to make a false declaration when answering this question. You are not permitted to withhold previous convictions by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1975 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (see notes in Part A on the application form).

Not all convictions are relevant but your age when they were committed and the length of time without re-offending are factors which are considered in addition to the seriousness of the offence.

The police will also ask for details of cautions/convictions of any person over the age of 18 who will be resident in the property where the firearms are going to be kept. If your partner is prohibited from possessing a firearm because they’ve received a custodial sentence in the past, then the police may refuse your licence application. Alternatively, they may issue you with a licence with certain conditions, for example that your partner doesn’t have any access to any of the weapons; you will be made aware that you would be committing an offence if you allowed your partner access.

If your application is refused, you will receive details of the reasons for the refusal and a full refund of your application fee.

Useful links

A Freedom of Information request by the BBC to the Isle of Man Constabulary revealed that nearly 40% of all registered gun and crossbow owners on the Isle of Man has a criminal record.

As of 31 March 2019, 2,003 people held certificates for firearms and regulated weapons with 789 of these (39%) having at least one conviction.

Although the above information doesn’t relate specifically to England and Wales, it’s interesting to see that it is possible to get a licence.

More information

  1. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.


Add Comment
  1. i was subject of an assault as aresult of a domestic dispute in my home by my son who does not live here. the police want to take my shotgun which at the time was in a locked gun cabinet in the loft and was no part in the dispute and nomention was made of it in the argument. i left home for the night and spent it elswhere. my son has left my home and returned to Wales where he lives and works for the last 20 years. I know the police will try to revoke my certificate of over 40 years. where do i stand legally.

    1. Hi

      Cautions and convictions remain on someone’s criminal record until they are 100 years old.

      In terms of getting a gun licence, the police will consider the sentence or disposal that somebody received in court rather than the offence they were convicted of.

      Section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968 states that a person would be prohibited from possessing any type of firearm if they received a prison sentence.

      If they received a prison sentence (including a suspended sentence) of between 3 months and 3 years they are prohibited for a period of 5 years from the date they are released.
      If they received a prison sentence of 3 years or more then they are prohibited for life, from the date of release.

      Best wishes


  2. Surely though this is a form of discrimination. I committed a non violent crime and was sentenced to 8 months, I done 4 and was made to sign this paperwork prior to my release. I lost my firearms license and had to sell my rifles. It was a hobby to me like model building to others. How come you don’t get discriminated for holding a driving license? You can commit more crimes with a vehicle!

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Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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