It happens sometimes that a firearm is included in the assets of a deceased person. The firearm maybe registered or it may be unregistered. The Firearms Act 1996 (“the Act”) allows an Executor of an Estate to retain the firearm for six months immediately following the death of the deceased or until the Executor disposes of the firearm lawfully, whichever event occurs first. Naturally, the Executor is not entitled to use the firearm whilst in his or her possession. The Executor is obliged to ensure the safekeeping requirements for the firearm are complied with. As soon as practicable after the deceased dies, the Executor must notify the Firearms Registry of the death of the deceased and supply all information that is required by the Firearms Registry. After notification, an officer from the Firearms Registry contacts the Executor to assist with the process of disposing of the firearm in accordance with the deceased wishes or otherwise. If the beneficiary of the firearm would like to keep the firearm but is an unlicensed person then he or she must apply for a firearms licence of the same category as the deceased person’s firearm licence. Once the licence has issued, the ownership of the firearm will be transferred to the beneficiary.
If the firearm owned by the deceased is unregistered then the Executor is compelled under Section 36(1) of the Act to immediately surrender to police, the unregistered firearm. It is an offence to possess an unregistered firearm. However, Section 60 of the Act offers protection from prosecution under the Act if the Executor, without delay, surrenders the firearm to the police. Once the firearm has been surrendered to the police, if there is a beneficiary who would like to obtain the firearm then he or she can make the appropriate application to be licensed to hold the firearm. Otherwise, the police will dispose of the firearm in accordance with the Act.
The Act defines a firearm to mean a gun, other weapon that is (or at any time was) capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive and includes a blank firearm, or an airgun but does not include a paintball marker within the meaning of the Paintball Act 2018 or anything declared by the regulators not to be a firearm. If you are acting as an Executor in an Estate and if you think that there is a firearm included in the assets of the deceased then you should immediately inform the solicitor acting on behalf of the Estate to obtain the appropriate advice.