Gun licensing shambles in England
Date of alert:
Wednesday, 6 April 2022
The firearms licensing system in England and Wales is in crisis. Shooters claim the fiasco has made getting a grant, renewal, or variation a postcode lottery. Nottinghamshire Police is the latest force to announce it has stopped processing applications.
Livens Gunsmiths is a family business which started in 1850 in Burton upon Trent. It has customers from all over the Midlands. They say where people live makes a huge difference to their licensing experience.
Neil Wragg works at Livens Gunsmiths. He says: “Because we’re in the middle of the country we have people coming from all over.
“We find that some people tell us that they’ve been waiting 12 months for a license, whereas for some it might be just a couple of weeks. So, it’s pretty much a bit of a postcode lottery as far as getting a FAC or a shotgun license, variation or renewal. It’s a bit random.”
Neil says it’s challenging for his customers. He says: “For the farmers and shooters who are doing it for a living, it can be pretty frustrating because, obviously, they can’t go without buying ammunition, for example.”
BASC says the crisis is having an impact on members and the grassroots of the sport. The group claims there are thousands of people wanting to join its ranks but are being denied because of the creaky and inconsistent licensing system.
BASC firearms director Martin Parker says some persist to get a certificate grant but many more give up and move on. He says: “I think the way that chief constables have resourced firearms licensing departments is definitely different. And you can see that. Some forces are very well resourced. Other forces are really struggling.”
BASC has submitted a freedom of information request to all 43 police forces in England and Wales to establish which constabularies are struggling with licensing. In its last league table of performance on firearms licensing, which it based on 2020 figures, it revealed a huge discrepancy between forces. In 12 areas, shooters were waiting more than 100 days for a shotgun certificate grant. The longest waits were in Greater Manchester and Northamptonshire. The situation was just as tough with FAC grants with a wait of 100 days or more in ten areas. The worst offenders were Avon & Somerset and West Midlands Police.
Police forces blame the delays on a variety of issues, including the pandemic, new Home Office guidance and staffing shortages.
The Home Office guidance rankles with shooters. There was no reason for it. According to a survey by the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners, the public do not feel threatened by legal gun owners in the UK. The survey ran from 30 September to 20 October, yielding a total of 24,430 complete responses including a significant number from people who identified as current or former licence holders. APCC chair Marc Jones says: “We were heartened to see a great deal of agreement between license holders and the wider public. The majority of both groups feel broadly assured about the effectiveness of the firearms licensing regime in England and Wales in keeping people safe. On behalf of the public, who we as PCCs are answerable to, this was important to hear.”
When North Yorkshire Police’s firearms licensing manager deputy inspector Andy Palmer claimed its firearms department faced delays because of new Home Office guidance, BASC called his statement, ‘a clear breach of their statutory duty’.
Hampshire Police decided against blaming its failings on the Home Office. Instead, it said it will issue no firearms or shotguns certificates ‘for the foreseeable future’ because of covid.