I was somewhat dismayed to learn yesterday, from the person who answers the telephone at the local constabulary’s firearms department, that, whilst my certificate has been printed – guaranteeing at least another five years of my readers’ sufferings in the form of my musings on the subject of small bore shotgunning – it has not been signed, which leaves me in the unenviable position of having no gun – excepting an air rifle – with which to go hunting for a second weekend in a row.
Apart from the fact that storing five shotguns at the local shop is becoming increasingly expensive, this further delay (after I had been led to believe that the certificate would be posted last Monday and be with me on Tuesday this week) appears to have been caused by the disappearance on holiday of the licensing manager, leaving no-one qualified to sign the certificate, apparently.
I confess that, once again, I find myself somewhat confused as to the local constabulary’s approach to the licensing process. Whilst one can’t necessarily be annoyed at hard-working public servants taking a much-needed holiday, the firearms department at first expressed disappointment that I had stored my shotguns – for which I emphasize, currently have no valid licence – at the local RFD, apparently having expected me to hold onto them, illegally, for the duration of their faffing around!
Unless I’m very much mistaken, possession of firearms / shotguns without an appropriate certificate is a summary offence, meaning that there is no defense in law if the CPS can prove you are guilty in fact, meaning that, had I still had shotguns in my cabinet on Sunday last week, a mandatory jail term would have been unavoidable.
I further note that, whilst the system of common law allows for certain practices and interpretations of the law as it stands to be interpreted as legal by a finding in court of innocence, I have never entirely been entirely sure whether the delegation of responsibility for the signing of firearm / shotgun certificates by an “officer of the Chief Constable” is actually provided for by the (1988?) Firearms (Amendment) Act or whether it is simply the accepted practice, as yet untested. Either way, in the interests of not inconveniencing members of the public by inattention in spite of their best efforts to remain “legal”, would it not have been possible to get the Chief Constable to actually sign a piece of paper this week saying that, in short, I was allowed to carry on as before? Even a Section 7 permit would have been sufficient.
Obviously the bods with the overloaded shoulders don’t have enough time to fulfill the obligations placed upon them in law, at least where the little people are concerned.
I confess I’m getting increasingly irritated with this situation. One positive that’s come out of all of this is that my my wife has agreed to apply for a certificate in a few months’ time, to avoid this happening again in 5 years, by giving us some overlap. It might mean I can actually get her to come shooting with me too. That’ll be a good thing, if it happens. It’ll also help with the practicalities of shooting, on the odd occasion where it would be more helpful to send her home with the guns rather than have to go back myself. I’ve been thinking of buying a 20 gauge Hatsan / Armsan to play about with, which might suit her too. We shall see. She doesn’t like recoil, but a soft load of #7 should do for clays and birds, if I can find a good recipe…
In the meantime, I continue to direct my efforts towards the mastery of Rheinberger’s Organ Sonata No. 8, which turns out to be a rather good piece in spite of my expectations and gives my newly refurbished pedal board a long-awaited workout. Between that and the garden, I’m distracted enough to be a little less grumpy about the lack of hunting this weekend, though my earlier good opinion is now somewhat diminished.