Gun licence increase postponed by Home Office
Gun owners in the Westcountry have been handed a temporary reprieve after a proposed increase in certificate fees was postponed by the Home Office.
The cost of a shotgun or firearms certificate – currently £50 for five years – has not risen since 2001.
However, major concerns were raised in the summer when it emerged that the Association of Chief Police Officers was lobbying for fees to nearly double to £94.
The Home Office has now opted to postpone an increase to allow for further investigation into costs and the role of medical advice in the licensing process.
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A working group will be set up to examine police costs for administering the service and to investigate how GPs can be more involved in the licensing process without adding unduly to their responsibilities or penalising applicants.
The move has been welcomed by the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).
Richard Ali, BASC chief executive, said: “We welcome the constructive approach which the Home Office and Government have taken towards this complex issue.
“They have listened to the concerns of law-abiding gun owners and set out a realistic way forward. The real costs of police administration can now be examined, inefficiencies tackled and improvements made.
“BASC recognises that an increase in firearms licensing fees is due, but we believe any rise should be linked to better police efficiency and effectiveness in delivering the licensing service.
“Firearms licensing must do two things: protect public safety and ensure the continued lawful ownership and use of firearms.
“Shooting helps to protect crops and our food supply and brings acknowledged benefits to conservation and biodiversity.
“BASC believes lawful gun owners should pay a fair price for a fair service, but we know that the standard of service varies dramatically across different police forces.”
Devon and Cornwall has the highest rate of gun ownership in the country. There are 9,728 firearms certificates covering 26,838 weapons and 30,653 shotgun certificates, covering 67,485 shotguns.
The bill for administering the licensing system last year cost Devon and Cornwall Police £1.25 million. However it received only £446,000 in fees.
In 2012, Avon and Somerset Police had some 26,000 certificates on issue, covering some 62,000 firearms and shotguns, and Dorset with 14,000, covering 34,000 guns.
Nationally, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said there was an £18.6 million shortfall between the cost of administering the system and receipts.
While the current fee was £50, ACPO said processing the necessary paperwork and ensuring the guns were being securely stored actually cost forces in the region of £200.