You can but… For me the big thing is that they have unlimited access to your house to insure that it it secured and if you use it in self defense you are all but certain to do jail time. A couple of really outlandish cases have escaped a ‘record’ but they too spent pretrial time in the clink… I’ll have to take my chances with a crowbar and bat.
Rules on gun buying and licencing in the UK
To buy a shotgun in Britain you need to hold a Shotgun Certificate, and to buy a rifle you need to hold a Fire Arm Certificate. You can ask for forms for these from your local police station.
Ask also to speak to your local police firearms liaison officer, who will tell you what you need to fill those forms out to his or her satisfaction. They may also want to see a ‘good reason’ for you wanting a gun, such as membership of a clay shooting club or pest control. They usually want to see that you will keep your gun or guns in a secure place, such as a steel gun cabinet bolted to a wall. You have to store ammunition separately.
A shotgun is described as a smooth-bore gun (not being an air-weapon) which has a barrel not less than 24 inches with a bore diameter not exceeding 2 inches. A firearm usually describes a cartridge-loading, rifled-barrel longarm (rifle) with a barrel not shorter than 300mm. Overall length of the firearm must not be less than 600mm unless it is a muzzle loader. Firearms include: muzzle-loading rifles or pistols; shotguns with a magazine capacity greater than three; airguns with power ratings exceeding 12 ft/lbs for rifles and 6ft/lbs for pistols; and historic pistols kept at home as part of a collection or kept at a designated historic site and used for non-competitive target practice.
People who apply for a Firearm Certificate for a rifle or muzzle-loading pistol from 1 October 1997 need to be a member of a rifle or muzzle-loading pistol club approved by the Home Office or Scottish Office under the Firearms Acts if they intend to use the gun for target shooting only. Muzzle loaders are now the only legal useable handguns available to UK shooters (apart from the historic cartridge firing handguns kept at designated sites). However, in order to conduct your shooting you will need a supply of blackpowder which as a classified explosive, has its own restrictions requiring the acquisition of a blackpowder certificate from your police force.
It is an offence to fire a gun within 50 feet of a roadway, public footpath or bridleway if by doing so any member of the public is endangered. It is an offence to carry a loaded gun in a public place without good reason. An gun may be considered loaded even if the bullets (or pellets in the case of air rifles) are in a detached magazine.
Post 1997 rule changes
From 1997, firearm and shotgun certification became more stringent. Among the extra hurdles added, people who now apply for Firearms Certificates have to provide two referees, and the police are able to revoke a Firearms Certificate in cases where the holder no longer has a good reason to possess firearms or ammunition.
Certain types of firearm are hard to obtain in Britain without a stringent Home Office licence. These include automatic weapons and most handguns.
The 1997 handgun ban also made buying any gun more difficult. These transactions have to take place face to face rather than by mail-order, as before. The 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Act made it illegal to send to any individual who is not a Registered Firearms Dealer a gun that requires a certificate or any metallic ammunition of .22 calibre and above. This also applies to transfers of ammunition which requires a Firearms Certificate. It does not apply to shotgun cartridges.
Guns can, however, be sent by a Registered Firearms Dealer (i.e. any gun shop) to another RFD. If you buy your guns mail order you will either have to set up a relationship with a friendly local RFD or be prepared to travel. This site will help you find an RFD in every area of the UK.
Not all RFD holders will be happy to accept guns that have been retailed by other dealers and all are perfectly entitled to levy a charge for this service.