Andrew Mercer, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, today described the HMIC report into police administration of the firearms licensing system as “alarmist” while praising the “professionalism” and “competence” of police firearms licensing staff.
Speaking to Surrey and Hampshire’s Eagle Radio, Mercer said: “No system is perfect, and there are always quirks that can be improved. But our experience of dealing with the police is they work hard, they’re pretty professional.”
He added: “I think they’re not particularly well resourced in terms of manpower – and the IT in particular is, at times, quite shabby. I think the key issue is that there is inconsistency in terms of the delivery of firearms licensing by the many police forces.”
“But I think what [HMIC] are trying to do is draw attention, it appears to me, to one area of the problem, rather than the problem itself.”
The report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which was made public at midnight, claims that a “gun massacre” is inevitable unless police forces are handed new powers and the Home Office Guidance on firearms law is itself given the force of law. HMIC castigated police forces for their inconsistent application of licensing law, waiting times of up to 5 months for certificate grants to be processed, and the lack of independent monitoring of firearms licensing departments.
“I think the greater problem is the lack of consistency of application of the current legislation,” continued Mercer. “I think that there is some three quarters of a million firearms and shotgun certificates out there, the amount of actual problems and serious issues are actually pretty tiny.”
HMIC also demanded that the traditional doctor-patient relationship, based on confidentiality between patient and medical professionals, should be ended. Instead, according to the police agency, doctors should be expected to sign a guarantee for each and every certificate-holding patient certifying they are in good mental and physical health.
“I think focusing on the health issue is a bit of a red herring to be honest,” concluded the NRA’s Mercer.