The number of registered firearms in England and Wales has reached its highest recorded level, according to statistics released last week by the Home Office.

Despite a marginal drop in the number of firearms certificates issued, the number of firearms covered by those certificates reached 464,839, a 3% increase on the previous year up by 58% since 1998.

Numbers of shotgun certificates and shotguns were down, however.

There were 564,269 shotgun certificates issued in 2011, a fall of 3% from 2010, and 1,336,701 shotguns, down by 2%.

Mike Eveleigh, BASC?s senior firearms officer, said that the figures were of vital importance, as they provided BASC and the trade with information on trends in gun ownership.

He said: ?Looking back over the years, shotgun certificates have been declining in numbers since 1988, which I?m sure many will know as the year of the Firearm (Amendment) Act which added extra bureaucracy to shotgun ownership ? and that decline appears to be continuing.?

?However, the trend in firearms certificates shows a much healthier picture. Certainly grass-roots target shooting clubs are reporting healthy membership books; often to the point of having long waiting lists.?

?Shotgun certificates make up around 80% of all certificates, so while firearms are showing an upward trend, this does not compensate for the decline in shotgun certificates.?

?A Home Office spokesman said that the rise in the number of firearms was largely explained by an increase in the number of weapons covered by each firearms certificate ? the number of weapons per certificate has gradually increased from 2.2 in 1999 to 3.3 in 2011.

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