Gun ownership stays steady in England and Wales

Attacks on shooting sports by the anti-gun and animal rights lobby are having no effect on gun ownership in England & Wales.

Firearm and shotgun certificates on issue as at 31 March 2011 to 2020, England and Wales


According to the latest statistics on firearm and shotgun certificates (England and Wales: April 2019 to March 2020), there were 159,483 firearm certificates on issue as at 31 March 2020, a 0.2% decrease of 262 compared with the previous year (159,745) which was the highest number of firearm certificates on issue since comparable records began following the introduction of the NFLMS (138,728 as at 31 March 2009).

There were 567,358 shotgun certificates on issue as at 31 March 2020, a 0.9% decrease of 5,130 compared with the previous year (572,488). The number of shotgun certificates on issue over the past 10 years has shown small fluctuations (between 561,413 and 582,923) whereas the number of firearm certificates has had a small but steady rise followed by a slight decrease.

Anti-gun activists tried to spin this story in the local and national press with scaremongering press releases about ‘guns used in mass shootings’. Many newspapers printed their press release, as our story here shows.

As at 31 March 2020, an average of 3.8 firearms were held on a firearms certificate, an increase of 0.1 compared with the previous year.

The average number of firearms held on a certificate has shown a steady increase over the past 10 years. As at 31 March 2020, an average of 2.4 shotguns were held on a shotgun certificate. This has remained stable for the past 12 years.

Of the 604,920 firearms (covered by firearm certificates), the majority (58%) were rifles, followed by ‘other’ (33%); these proportions have remained stable over the last 5 years. Almost all (94%) of the 201,376 ‘other’ weapon types were sound moderators (189,859).

Rifles are typically used for target shooting or for the control of vermin. Sound moderators are an accessory subject to certificate control as ‘items designed to reduce the noise or flash of a firearm’.

Types of weapon held on shotgun certificates Of the 1,383,777 shotguns (covered by shotgun certificates), almost all (over 99%) were Section 2 shotguns. Other shotgun types and shotguns for which no type had been recorded on the NFLMS both accounted for less than 1% (0.3% and 0.07%, respectively). A Section 2 shotgun may have a magazine restricted to no more than two rounds and is held on a shotgun certificate. The main usage of these types of weapons is vermin control, clay pigeon shooting and sporting purposes.

As at 31 March 2020, 586,351 people held a firearm and/or shotgun certificate, a decrease of 0.8% (-4,951) compared with the previous year.

Within this total figure are those that only hold a firearm certificate, those that only hold a shotgun certificate and those that hold both types of certificate. A person is only counted once if they hold both firearm and shotgun certificates.

Of the 586,351 certificate holders:

  • 94% (550,298) were male.
  • 70% (407,872) were aged 18 to 64.
  • 0.5% (2,770) were aged 17 years and under.
  • The youngest shotgun certificate holder as at 31 March 2020 was aged 7.

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