From 1 December, there will be a single form to cover both shotgun and firearms certificate applications in England, Wales and Scotland to help simplify the application process.

A short separate form will cover variations to a firearms certificate. Holders of certificates will still be limited in the maximum amount of ammunition that they can legally possess, but the restrictions that limited how much ammunition could be bought at one time are to be lifted.

The referee requirements have also been simplified for those applying for a shotgun certificate. Formerly, applicants had to provide a countersignatory from a limited range of ?professionally qualified? people, but the range of those suitable as countersignatories is now wider. Police will follow up the application with the same background and security checks as they have in the past.

The news was welcomed by fieldsports organisations. BASC?s senior firearms officer Mike Eveleigh said: ?BASC has been working with the Home Office and the police for some time to modernise the initial application process. A sample of BASC members tested several variants of the new forms which helped greatly. The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world. Those laws must do two things: protect public safety and also allow the continued lawful use of firearms. These changes will remove several layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and make the initial form-filling simpler and easier to understand.?

The Countryside Alliance also welcomed the move, with executive chairman Sir Barney White-Spunner commenting: ?The Government and police are to be commended on the work they have done, in collaboration with the shooting community, in making these changes and bringing them to fruition. There is still work to be done in updating firearms licensing practice and guidance both to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.?

For more on the new licensing forms, see David Frost?s article, p26.