25 April 2016 – Low turnout figures and slim victory margins mean firearm and shotgun certificate holders could be a decisive voice in next month’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections.
Data analysis by UK Shooting News reveals that in a significant number of counties, certificates on issue outnumber sitting PCCs’ election majorities. This raises the prospect of an organised shooting vote helping ensure candidates adopt pro-shooting policies, particularly in relation to firearms licensing.
Scroll on to download the full data set – and read the health warning.
25 police forces across England and Wales are ‘ruled’ by PCCs whose majorities are smaller than the number of certificate holders in their county. These are:
- West Mercia
- Devon and Cornwall
- North Yorkshire
- Thames Valley
- North Wales
Warwickshire PCC Ron Ball, who has been a forthright advocate of raising firearms licensing fees and of imposing intrusive and expensive medical reporting by GPs, won his seat by 8,000 votes. In comparison, there are 11,143 firearm and shotgun certificates on issue in his force area, potentially giving shooters the ability to vote Ball out of office, based on his attitude towards them as constituents, and replace him with a PCC who is not opposed to the shooting sports.
Other PCCs have made a number of statements over the last four years regarding licensing, normally along the lines of it being ‘subsidised’ by the public purse and supporting a hike in firearms licensing fees so it makes a profit for police.
One such politician is Kent PCC Ann Barnes, who has been a high profile and not entirely serious candidate during her time in office. Unfortunately, she is defending a 53,000 vote majority, far outweighing the 26,000 certificates on issue in her county.
Another police force of interest to shooters is Essex, which has been beset by serious delays and backlogs in its firearms licensing department. The sitting PCC, Conservative Nick Alston, is defending a majority of 3,686 – which pales in comparison to the 22,000 FACs and SGCs covered by Essex Police.
Similarly, Hampshire Police – long known in the licensed firearms community as a byword for inefficiency and timewasting – is responsible to independent PCC Simon Hayes, who holds a healthy 14,000 majority. This is outweighed by the 27,000 FACs and SGCs on issue in the county, allowing shooters to hold him to account for the force’s failings.
London’s two police forces, the Met and the City of London Police, are not covered because the Mayor of London assumes the duties of PCC for the capital.
I first established the number of votes cast in each county and each candidate’s margin of victory using the local.gov.uk website’s 2012 PCC elections pages. Having done that, I then totalled the Home Office figures for firearm and shotgun certificates on issue in each county, as kindly supplied in easy-to-use spreadsheet format by the Countryside Alliance (who, it is important to note, do not endorse this blog post – they were nice enough to send me that data along with their section 7 permit data, as reported last week on UKSN).
The final step was to do a simple bit of arithmetic to establish the ‘shooter majority’ in each county. However…
The figures I have access to do not break down the number of individual certificate holders in each police force area. Therefore, the number of individual licensed shooters in each county will be less – probably significantly less – than the totals I have come up with. How many shooters do you know with co-terminous FACs and SGCs?
In addition, the licensed firearms community includes a number of people who do not hold certificates themselves: rifle club members, regular visitors to and employees of clay pigeon grounds, shooting syndicate staff, agricultural and conservation workers, and so on.
Treat this blog post as a bit of interesting fag-packet maths rather than as a definitive analysis.
You can download the data here (.xls format spreadsheet, 17 kilobytes. UKSN accepts no responsibility for any viruses or other damage or inconvenience caused by opening this file)