There has been a strong surge in new shotgun and firearm certificates issued by the police in England and Wales, according to analysis of the latest figures published last month.

The Home Office’s Statistical Bulletin Firearm Certificates in England and Wales 2008/09 was published on 25 March.

The figures within, according to analysis by BASC’s firearms department, show the highest year-on-year rises in certificates on issue for both shotguns and firearms since records began in 1968.

Encouragingly, the figures for shotgun certificates reversed a declining trend, with a 5% rise on the previous year.

In 2008/9 there were 574,956 shotgun certificates on issue – an increase of 25,739 from 2007/8.

Firearms certificates also showed their highest rise of 8%; an increase of 10,200 to 138,728.

In total there were 453,383 firearms and 1,366,082 shotguns registered on police-issued certificates in March 2009.

The figure for firearms is the highest it has been since figures were first collated in 1995 – at that time, 413,600 weapons were covered by certificates.

The number of registered firearms dealers is now also at its highest level since 1988, thanks in part to the requirement for all airguns to be sold through registered dealers following the introduction of the 2006 Violent Crime Reduction Act.

On 31 March 2009, there were 2,840 registered firearms dealers in England and Wales – an increase of 2% from the 2,792 dealers registered in 2007/08.

Mike Eveleigh, BASC’s senior firearms officer, said: “This increase reflects the growing popularity of shooting sports and its recognition as a growing leisure and sporting activity and an essential means of pest control. With the introduction of the national database for firearms licensing, these figures should give a more accurate picture of the state of legitimate shooting in the UK than we have seen before.”

Data for the Home Office’s information bulletin is taken from the recently introduced National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS), which is now in use by all police forces in England and Wales.

The NFLMS is a register of all those who have applied for, or have been granted, a certificate for a firearm or shotgun.

The system updates the Police National Computer with details of individuals who own firearms and/or shotguns and records details of anyone who has been refused a certificate or had one revoked.

In 2008/09, around 2% of new applications for shotgun certificates and less than 1% of applications for renewal certificates were refused.

The number of shotgun certificates revoked increased by 12%, from 903 in 2007/08 to 1,009 in 2008/09.

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