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Know the Law

The Firearms (NI) Order 2004external link opens new window states that, unless exempted, a firearm certificate is required for the purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition in Northern Ireland.

This makes it an offence for any person to purchase, acquire or have in their possession, a firearm or ammunition without holding a valid firearm certificate. One firearm certificate is issued to an individual to licence all approved firearms in their possession.

The control of firearms in Northern Ireland is exercised by the Chief Constable. Before a person can be authorised to hold a firearm certificate, the Chief Constable must be satisfied that the applicant:

  1. Is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm, is not of intemperate habits or unsound mind and is not, for any reason, unfit to be entrusted with a firearm.
  2. Has good reason for purchasing, acquiring or having in their possession the firearm or ammunition in respect of which the application is made.
  3. Can be permitted to have that firearm or ammunition in their possession without danger to public safety or to the peace.

What is a Firearm?

The term ‘firearm’ is defined as a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged and includes any:

  1. Prohibited weapon, whether it is such a lethal weapon or not.
  2. Component part of such a lethal or prohibited weapon.
  3. Accessory to any such weapon designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing the weapon.

‘Component Part’ in relation to a firearm means –

  • Barrel, chamber or cylinder.
  • Frame, action, body or receiver.
  • Breech block, bolt or other mechanism for containing the pressure of discharge at the rear of the chamber.
  • Part of a firearm which directly bears the pressure caused by firing.
  • Magazine.

In Northern Ireland airguns and CO2 guns having a discharge kinetic energy in excess of one (1) Joule (0.737 ft lbs) require to be held on a Firearm Certificate.

How to Renew a Firearm Certificate

Under the Firearms (NI) Order 2004 automatic renewals are not permitted. All applications for continued possession of firearms will be subject to a further re-grant process.

Before a current firearm certificate expires, a reminder to seek a re-grant of their licence will be forwarded to the certificate holder.

This reminder will indicate that firearm application packs can be obtained at any police station. Prospective applicants are reminded that all aspects of their previous possession must be verified and updated, including permissions to shoot over land and club membership confirmation.

Once the application form (user live link to firearm forms) contained within the pack is completed and all other relevant paperwork included, the application should be sent directly to:

Firearms and Explosives Branch
PSNI Lisnasharragh
42 Montgomery Road
Belfast
BT6 9LD

As well as the relevant forms contained in the application pack, the following should also accompany a re-grant application:

  • Two recent passport sized photographs, full face without a hat, 45mm x 35mm, properly endorsed.
  • The correct fee - cheque/postal order made payable to PSNI. Please do not send cash.
  • All pages of the existing firearm certificate.

Remember that the onus remains on the applicant to ensure that their firearm certificate remains a valid document.

Airguns not Requiring a Firearm Certificate

In Northern Ireland airguns and CO2 guns having a discharge kinetic energy in excess of one (1) Joule (0.737 ft lbs) require to be held on a firearm certificate. For airguns below that limit the following restrictions are in place.

Under Paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 of the Firearms (NI) Order 2004, persons under the age of 18 cannot possess such firearms, unless they have attained the age of 14 years or are under the direct supervision of a person of 21 years or over.

Persons not holding a firearms certificate cannot purchase such firearms, unless they have attained the age of 17 years.

Ammunition for an airgun can be purchased and possessed without holding a firearm certificate.

Where to Get Further Help

Further information is also available from the Firearms and Explosives Branch by calling 101 Non Emergency Number.

Please leave details of your query and a contact number. A member of staff will return your call with the appropriate information.

You can also write to us:

Firearms and Explosives Branch
PSNI Lisnasharragh
42 Montgomery Road
Belfast
BT6 9LD

101 Non Emergency Number

Email: firearms@psni.pnn.police.uk