Check your certificate, warns BASC — if it’s set to expire next year, then submit your certificate renewal application in plenty of time

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Shooters due to renew their shotgun or firearm certificate in 2015 have been urged by BASC to submit their application with plenty of time to spare as the cyclical nature of firearms licensing means next year will see one of the busiest periods of renewal activity.

BASC has warned members that they should be well prepared in order to avoid potential delays. The association recommends that shooters get certificate renewal applications in several months before it expires and cautions that shooters should not rely on a reminder letter from the police.

BASC’s director of firearms, Bill Harriman, said: “It’s the individual’s responsibility to ensure that their certificates are renewed. To help the police renew your certificates in time next year we recommend that you get your applications to them 12 weeks before the expiry of your certificate.”

He added: “Where the police are the source of any delay, a permit should always be issued as per Home Office guidance, but to avoid complications, we urge people to submit their renewals with extra time to spare.”

The problem is made more acute because firearms certificate numbers are at their highest levels in nearly 20 years. There were 151,413 certificates on issue at the end of March this year — the highest level since figures were first collated in 1995. Similarly, shotgun certificate numbers on issue are near their 10-year peak, at 582,923 — a 2.1 per cent increase on the previous year.

Shooting Times contributor David Frost, the author of Sporting Shooting and the Law — a licensing guide published by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation — said police forces should be prepared for their workload next year.

“It’s been well known for 20 years that the cycle of certificate renewals is a three year normal period followed by two lightly loaded years,” he said.

“However, historic staffing figures show that few forces adjust staffing levels to meet expected volumes of work. Freedom of Information requests have shown that disappointingly few staff have had any nationally recognised training. Inadequately trained staff take longer over the job and are more likely to make mistakes.”

He added: “Forces, and there are several, which ignore the Home Office guidance also add unnecessarily to their workload. There’s no justification for applicants getting a poor service just because there is more work for the police to do.”

Should you send in your old certificate?
Many forces request that applicants send in their licence with their certificate renewal application, but BASC advises that you should not as expiring certificates are required both to buy ammunition and prove lawful possession of your guns. Furthermore, the law allows police to seize your firearms if you are unable to produce a certificate on demand. It is always advisable to carry original certificates with you. Though the evidence of a copy should be acceptable in many instances, the legal right to seize and detain your guns remains unless you produce the original.

However, BASC suggests that it may help the licensing department to process renewals if you provide photocopies of existing certificates. Add a note with the application saying that you are retaining the originals until new ones are issued.

The law (Firearms Rules 1998) does not require you to return expiring certificates with your certificate renewal application. In the case of shotguns, renewal applications should be accompanied by the expiring certificate “if it is available”. The need to buy ammunition and show lawful possession means that the expiring certificate is not available. It is an offence to be in possession of a firearm without the appropriate authority, so any advice from the police that it is acceptable to continue keeping your guns without a valid certificate should be ignored, even if your renewal has already been submitted.