Do Police Officers Need A Firearms License? [UK]

  • Time to Read: 4 min.

Do police officers need a firearms license is an interesting question that we often get asked. So, we thought we’d answer the question here for you. There are two answers to this question, depending on whether the officer is on duty or not.

In America, officers can carry their sidearm across all 50 states when on duty. However, if they want to conceal carry, they have to apply for a conceal carry license and are assessed for this, just like any other citizen.

This is what we are used to seeing on TV. However, is this the same in the UK?

Do police officers need a firearms license?

Let’s have a look.

Do Police Officers Need A Firearms License?

In the UK police officers do not need to apply for a firearms license, in order to carry their firearm whilst on duty. This is due to firearms and ammunition not being taken home with them. In the US this is different, with officers being permitted to take home their guns.

In the UK all firearms and accompanying ammunition, are booked out at the beginning of a shift and booked back in at the end of the shift

Any spent ammunition or discharge of a firearm has to be accounted for by the officer, prior to going off duty.

Officers are not allowed to take home any firearms or ammunition, and if they did, depending on the circumstances, this could become a sackable offence.

If officers do take firearms home, they would be susceptible to being charged with offences under the Firearms Act

Police officers are exempt under legislation to carry whilst on duty (concealed or overt).

This exemption is covered in the Home Office Guide on Firearms Licensing Law.

Home Office Guide on Firearms Licensing Law

As per the Guide on Firearms Licensing Law, UK police officers are exempt from having to apply for a firearms license in order to carry a firearm when on duty.

See the excerpt below taken directly from the guidelines.

Persons in the service of the Crown and police
6.6 Section 54 of the 1968 Act is a general provision relating to all Crown servants and
to persons who are members of a police force or civilian officers (police staff
employed by, or under the direction and control of, a chief officer of police). The
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gives the British Transport
Police the same general provisions as specified within section 54 of the 1968 Act.

6.7 The effect of the section is that Crown servants, and police officers and staff who
possess firearms and ammunition in their official capacity do not require firearm
certificates or authority of the Secretary of State to possess prohibited weapons. In
addition, Customs Officers do not require written authority to detain, seize or
otherwise possess firearms they encounter in carrying out their official duties. This
is because statute law does not bind the Crown or its servants unless specifically
stated in the Act of Parliament concerned. Thus soldiers would be exempt if they
possess a service firearm in, or for the purpose of, the performance of their duty,
but not if they possess other firearms for other purposes, for example if they
possess a rifle or shot gun for their own private purposes.

6.8 In general, Crown servants who are required to possess firearms and ammunition
in the performance of their official duties are supplied with the weapons and
ammunition by the departments they serve. Accordingly, the section does not
empower Crown servants to purchase or acquire firearms or ammunition to which
section 1 of the 1968 Act applies, or shot guns, without a certificate, except as
provided in subsection 2(a) of section 54 of the 1968 Act. This provision enables a
person in the service of Her Majesty who has written authority from a senior officer,
to purchase or acquire firearms and ammunition for the public service without
holding a certificate and is intended to cover the necessary purchases by
government departments such as the contract branches of the Ministry of Defence.”

Do Police Officers Need A Firearms License Off Duty?

Yes, if a UK police officer wants to own a firearm, for example, a shotgun, they have to have a firearms license. Police officers will have to apply for a firearms license, just like any other member of the public.

They will undergo the same checks as any other person, prior to a decision being made as to whether they are suitable to own a firearm outside of the work environment.

Just because a police officer is a trained firearms officer, and deemed suitable to carry a firearm in the work place, does not necessarily mean that they will be approved to keep a firearm at their home address.

This is because there are a number of different factors which are assessed prior to a firearms license being issued.

Does This Mean That Firearms Officers Are Not Licensed?

It is correct that police officers on duty do not have a firearms license, however, this does not mean that there are no checks and balances on officers carrying firearms.

Check out this article on applying to be a firearms officer for more. In short, officers wanting to work within a firearms unit have to undergo a number of tests, followed by enhanced vetting prior to being approved for the role. 

They then have to undertake regular fitness and ability tests in order to ‘requalify’ to ensure that they are up to the required standards in order to continue being able to carry a firearm.

These are stringent tests and if an officer fails, they will be taken off front line duties.

Wrapping Up

UK police officers are not required to have a firearms license in order to carry a firearm whilst on duty. However, if they are off duty, they are subject to the same firearms licensing requirements as any other person.

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