Shotgun Issues


Shotguns are shoulder-fired long-barrelled smooth bore guns used for target shooting clay pigeon shooting, game and wildfowl shooting and hunting other birds and other wildlife, designed to shoot a large number of small projectiles (lead shot). Shotguns require a Section 2 Shotgun certificate.

 See ‘Gun Law’ pages.


IDENTIFICATION  Because imitation shotguns look like real guns it can be impossible to tell without close examination if a gun being brandished during an incident is real or a deactivated, imitation shotgun, airgun*, airsoft, replica or other long-barrelled non-licensed gun.  Victims of armed crime are traumatised and not surprisingly unable to identify the gun being used to assault them.   Media reporting is unreliable and unless guns are fired or recovered they are categorised as ‘unidentified’.  Many press reports which refer to ‘shotguns’ are likely to involve airsoft, air rifles, imitations and other non-licensed long-barrelled guns which look like shotguns.




A shotgun certificate costs £79.50 in Great Britain. It lasts for five years and any number of shotguns can be held on one certificate.  The Association of Chief Police Officers calculates that the actual cost of administering each certificate is £200.  Taxpayers subsidise shotgun certificate holders by approximately £20 million per year. The licensing system is failing to protect the public.  In September 2015 Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabularies Report made a number of recommendations and concluded:-


We cannot make our position any clearer: it is now for others to accept the need for change. If they do, perhaps the life of the next victim of firearms misuse might be saved. What is highly likely is that, if change is not effected, there will be another tragedy.”



Shotguns are used in homicides, domestic violence and suicides and are implicated in ‘accidental’ fatalities. The majority of shotgun deaths in the UK are self-inflicted and the majority involve licensed shotguns legally held by men. Suicide victims are those with an interest in guns, members of gun clubs, clay pigeon clubs etc., farmers, gamekeepers, police and the military, with easy access to a gun in the home or at a place of work.


All the gun massacres in UK in recent decades have involved licensed gun owners and/or legally held guns apart from one about which further information is awaited*.

All the gun massacres in UK in recent decades, apart from one, have involved victims known to the perpetrator (domestic violence.)


Mass shootings in the UK - *legal guns and/or licensed perpetrators.


2016 Sleaford, Lincolnshire 2 dead + suicide, Lance Hart

NB A police statement confirms that the pepetrator did not hold a gun licence at the time of the shooting. However press reports from a former neighbour indicate that the perpetrator apparently did own a shotgun sometime before the shooting.

2014 Farnham, Surrey, 2 dead, John Lowe.

2012 Horden, County Durham, 3 dead + suicide, Michael Atherton.

2010 Cumbria, 12 dead + suicide, 11 injured, Derrick Bird.

2009 Maesbrook, Shropshire, 2 dead + family pets + suicide, Christopher Foster.

2001 North West London, 3 dead + suicide, Peter Denyer.

1996 Dunblane, Scotland, 17 dead + suicide, 11 injured, Thomas Hamilton.

1989 Monkseaton, Tyneside, 1 dead, 16 injured, Robert Sartin.

1988 Bristol, 2 dead, 1 injured, 2 bludgeoned to death, Kevin Weaver.

1987 Hungerford, Bucks, 16 dead + suicide, 16 injured, Michael Ryan.

1978 West Midlands, 5 dead, 3 injured, Barry Williams.


Women are particularly at risk from shotgun armed domestic violence. Those living with a gun stored in the home are more likely to be involved in gun violence, domestic violence, gun accident and gun suicide than those in gun-free homes.


There have been incidents involving individuals armed with imitation shotguns or something believed to be a shotgun, who have been shot by police with fatal consequences.




Shotguns or other long-barrelled non-licensed guns resembling shotguns are used to enable crimes including armed robbery, domestic violence, drug related crimes, intimidation, vandalism, threats and drive-by random shootings. Victims fear they are about to die and the consequences are traumatic and can be long lasting. Incidents require police investigation, hospital treatment, court costs, insurance and repairs. Victims and families endure pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life, commerce, industry and transport.  Shotgun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer. (See 6)




Criminals banned by the courts from possessing guns, and those banned from possessing guns by virtue of having served prison sentences, can still buy long-barrelled imitation guns, airsoft shotguns and other non-licensed guns, with the appearance of shotguns, online from international suppliers, UK dealers and private sellers, from forums, websites, newspapers, magazines, no background checks are required




Applicants for shotgun certificates make a declaration regarding their health and agree to their GP being contacted. However the physical and mental health of individuals can deteriorate over the five years of a gun licence. We are aware of a number of occasions when no action has been taken by medics or family members to alert firearms licensing departments about serious health issues being suffered by licensed gun owners; tragic consequences have resulted. Current trials are being conducted regarding placing a marker on the GP records of those holding a gun licence.


Long barrelled non-licensed guns resembling shotguns can be bought by individuals suffering from mental health issues and those involved in alcohol and substance abuse, no background checks are required.




Shotguns, airsoft guns and other long-barrelled guns resembling shotguns are involved in incidents of criminal damage, vandalism to public and private buildings and animal cruelty. Such incidents are difficult to investigate. In cases of animal cruelty shotguns are used to kill and injure swans, cats, dogs, farm animals and pets. Farmers, pet owners and animal charities are faced with considerable veterinary costs. There are financial cost implications for society and for individuals in terms of police time, the judiciary, insurance, local authority services, time off work and disruption to daily life, commerce, industry and transport. Shotgun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer.


Shotguns are used by hunters and gamekeepers to kill protected birds of prey. These incidents occur on or close by land and estates managed for game shooting and could be linked to a desire to protect game birds from natural predators in order to preserve them for commercial shoots.  




Deactivated shotguns and other non-licensed long barrelled guns which look like shotguns are capable of being converted/reactivated into lethal firearms. Such activities have been the subject of a number of prosecutions.  Commercial ‘gun factories’ have been found to be engaged in converting large numbers of deactivated and realistic imitation shotguns, organised on an industrial scale.  Several such enterprises have involved ex-military individuals, dealers and gun collectors. 




Shotguns held under Section 2 Licences are subject to strict storage conditions.  However there are occasions when owners fail to adhere to these and shotguns are left propped up in homes, hotel rooms, or left on public transport and in cars and vans. 

Unlicensed long-barrelled guns which look like shotguns are not subject to any safe storage conditions. They are left in cupboards and on tops of wardrobes in homes, and in garages, sheds, outhouses, vehicles, boats etc. where security is inadequate and they are stolen by petty criminals.


See  ‘Gun Law’ pages.



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