With the number of firearm certificate holders falling at an alarming rate, we look at what is going on. 

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Just last week one of our clients finally had a home visit from the police in relation to his firearms application, he had been waiting over a year.

Other than the time taken to process the application, what made this stand out even more, is that there was nothing out of the ordinary or controversial about the application, everything was in order, and the applicant was already an existing shotgun certificate holder. Furthermore, the applicant lived within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan police service, a service that is considerably better funded than most other UK constabularies. 

For those living within the jurisdiction of less well-resourced county constabularies, the wait can be even longer. One of our clients in Dorset has been waiting over 18 months and still no word and other constabularies have previously announced a complete cessation of dealing with new applications. 

What adds to the frustration for many applicants, is the lack of clear information and feedback from the various licensing departments. Many applications appear to seemingly disappear into a black-hole and phone calls to 'Firearm Enquiry Teams' frequently go unanswered, with emails querying the wait, either not being responded to, or receiving a stock response, such as this reply recently received from the Met’ after a 10 month wait:

Your “application was processed and forwarded to the vetting unit. The admin team will not have any further updates as it is in the next process before it’s handed over to the Firearms Enquiry Officer. 

We are working through a large number of both new and renewal applications whilst under a heavy workload. Please accept our apologies”.

Women Deer Stalking

Unable to carry out home visits and with many FEO’s working from home, it was understandable that during the pandemic many forces struggled to deal with applications. In such an environment it is also understandable that forces prioritised renewals. What is not acceptable is the backlog of new applications that have still not been dealt with 6 months on from the lifting of all domestic COVID restrictions.

How long can we expect forces to use the pandemic as an excuse?

To add to the misery of those wishing to apply for a firearm, there is also a shocking lack of consistency, with the length of time taken to process an application varying widely, even within forces.

At County Deer Stalking & the Capreolus Club we are very much at the coalface of firearms licensing and have found that some new applications have been dealt with in less than six months, whilst other comparable applications to the same licensing department have taken over a year. Something that seems to be dependent only on the diligence of the FEO assigned to the file.   

Whilst delays are frustrating to the individual applicant, they are also influencing the gun trade and those who supply shooting accessories.

Home Office statistics illustrate that in the last two years there has been an 8% decrease in the number of certificate holders in England & Wales.

In March 2020 there were 586,351 individuals who held a firearm or shotgun certificate. By March 2022 this has dropped to 539,212, a decline of 47,139 certificate holders.

Executive Director of the Gun Trade Simon West was quoted in a recent publication of the BASC Magazine:  

“In facing up to the challenges of the pandemic, it was understandable that police forces moved resources away from firearms licensing to other tasks. What we find most unacceptable is that post pandemic, many have still not put sufficient resources back into dealing with the licensing backlogs.

…..I am disappointed for those waiting for certificates, but I am deeply concerned for the trade where threats to cash flow in small businesses have direct impacts on jobs and livelihoods. I will be challenging the national police licensing representative on this issue this week.” (BASC Press team July 13,2022)

Martin Parker head of firearms at BASC has also pointed out in the same publication:

“These delays are impacting our grass roots and the next generation of shooters. As well as firearms being necessary for wildlife and pest management, shooting is also an Olympic and Commonwealth sporting discipline. This restriction on new athletes coming into the sport is becoming increasingly damaging”

And is further quoted as saying that he will be: “calling on the Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners of those forces to act immediately” (BASC Press team July 13,2022). Parker has stated that he will be taking his concerns to the new Minister for Policing.

Rightly so. Firearms licensing is not only an important public service, it is a statutory duty of the police and in the current economic climate, it is disappointing that many senior officers appear to be showing scant regard for small business and the wider shooting community.

Let us hope that the efforts of BASC and the Gun Trade to encourage chief police officers to prioritise these failings, do not fall on deaf ears and that chief police officers ensure that their licensing departments become better resourced and adopt better practices in dealing with new applications.

If you’d like to learn more about how to apply for a firearms certificate, you can read more here: how-to-apply-for-a-firearm-certificate





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