An internal British Shooting Sports Council report, seen by UK Shooting News, reveals that licensing fees are set to increase again, there will be more intrusive involvement of GPs in the firearms licensing process, and the Home Office approval criteria for rifle clubs will change in the near future.
As part of the settlement on firearms licensing fees earlier this year, provision was made for them to be increased annually. Accordingly, the BSSC report said “there will be a review of firearms fees at the end of the year.” There was no detail on the size of the inevitable hike.
In terms of medical involvement in the licensing process, the report stated “ministers had given the go-ahead in principle to greater GP involvement in firearms licensing,” while warning that “implementation will be delayed beyond October because of computer-related problems and issues over fees for GPs’ services.”
“Shooting organizations are pressing for a recommended fee [and] a further meeting is planned for the 8th September,” it concluded. Police forces are keen to shift the costs of obtaining medical reports onto shooters rather than paying for reports they themselves commission. Shooting organisations have been pushing back against this initiative.
Meanwhile, the BSSC also reported on the HMIC inspection of police firearms licensing departments. Although this is not due to report back until September, the outlook is not promising for the licensed firearms community. According to the BSSC, the inspection concentrated on “discussions with Coroners and victims’ families, domestic abuse, GP involvement in licensing, the use of the National Decision Model, input to the licensing process from partners, revocations and ‘good reason’.”
The Home Office Guide on firearms licensing law has been rewritten so many times recently that even the police are struggling to follow it, it seems. The Continuity ACPO firearms licensing group, which, unusually, met at Bisley, considered “how best to flag up changes to the text” of the Guide whenever it is updated. At present updates are released by the Home Office with no notice and no indication of what has changed, which makes it unnecessarily difficult to discern what official thinking du jour is on particular topics.
Other items covered in the report included the EU’s review of its own firearms diktats, the collapse of the Lead Ammunition Group – in particular, how its paper on human health “had been written by two ornithologists rather than a medical doctor or a toxicologist” – and the UN’s attempts to tighten up its Arms Trade Treaty, which would have a significant impact on civilian use of firearms.
Simon Hart MP also spoke to the BSSC’s standing committee on countryside sports, giving an overview of the political landscape for countryside sports.