Unhappy with the service you get from your police licencing department? If so, don't suffer in silence ...


Too many gun owners mistakenly believe the police will find some way of getting their own back if they’re taken to task for giving poor service. This is not the case.

My experience is that complaining eventually gets the right result.

One Deputy Chief Constable assured me the police couldn’t get their act together well enough to do this anyway! And an Assistant Chief Constable told me that any member of staff found to be victimising certificate holders would be disciplined.

What’s poor service?

How do you know if the service you are getting is below standard? Check the following:

  • You should get a renewal reminder from the police 10-12 weeks before your certificate expires.
  • The reminder is not a legal requirement but it is good practice.
  • Provided you return your correctly completed paperwork 6-8 weeks before expiry then your certificate should be renewed on time.
  • If you’re applying for an initial grant, allow about 8 weeks and for a variation 2-3 weeks. Anything outside this merits a complaint.
  • The renewal letter may contain signs that you’re going to be disappointed. The first is a demand that you return your expiring certificate.
  • This is not a legal requirement and you should always politely refuse or ignore such a request. Only poor police forces make this demand.

The second, more serious sign, is a sentence saying it will be OK for you to keep guns even if the certificate is not renewed in time. This statement has no legal validity whatsoever and effectively the police are encouraging you to break the law.

The only way you may lawfully retain your guns without a current certificate is if the police have issued a Section 7 permit.

They claim that issuing this takes as long as issuing a certificate. Well they’re wrong, it doesn’t.

Home Office guidance clearly states that Section 7 permits should be issued if there are delays in renewal which are beyond the applicant’s control. If you think you may find yourself in this situation you should enclose a covering letter with your application making clear you will require a Section 7 permit if the renewal is not on time.

Who to complain to

  • Don’t mess about, go straight to the top, and that means the Chief Constable.
  • You can find a name and address on the force website, usually at the foot of some pious statement about the high standard of service his force supposedly delivers.
  • Write to the CC personally. Keep the letter short (not more than one page of A4), courteous and to the point.
  • Don’t waffle, stick to the facts. Make it clear you expect both an answer and some action.
  • A letter to the Chief Constable usually does the trick but sometimes the reply will be delegated to a minion who may try to wriggle.
  • If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, along with your certificate – take things a stage further.
  • Either write to, or visit, your Member of Parliament. A visit to the constituency surgery is best, but a letter will do.
  • Again, keep it short and factual. MPs work on the basis that one letter is a problem but ten letters are a crisis, so get any friends who have experienced the same as you to write as well.
  • One of the key things to include in a letter or bring up at the meeting is a request that the MP raises your concerns with the Home Secretary and ask for an assurance that things will be sorted out.
  • This forces the Home Office to write to the Chief Constable asking for an explanation.
  • It’s time consuming and no bureaucrat likes to be on the receiving end of a Parliamentary Question.
  • If enough folk complain the message will eventually get through.



  • S Bradley

    Steve from Meriden near Coventry

    I applied for my shotgun license early August 2013 had interview 11 sept it’s now 10th January 14 and I’ve heard nothing !

  • G Bumstead

    I applied for my shotgun certificate the first week of October 2012, my home was inspected early December 2012. I made enquires two weeks ago and was promised it within two week, that time has now past I assume that its laying in a office tray in Kent Police HQ waiting for some one to action it.
    Nearly sixteen weeks,now not impressed.

  • nick COLE

    I received my renewed certificates (firearm and shotgun) the day before the old ones expired.
    I sent all of my paperwork in good time,(3 days) much of which was pre prepared, as I had downloaded the forms from the website in anticipation, to Kent Police, my licensing authority. I had the visit from the FEO, made a couple of enquiries as to progress along the way and the certificates arrived in good time. ! Fantastic service, well done Kent Police!

  • george nurse

    With regards to the delays with West Mercia Firearms department I can only commend them on their speed at renewing my shotgun certificate.I sent my application off on 28th March 2012 and received my certificate on 10th April 2012. I had a delay on my last application five years ago so it looks like they have sorted any problems they were having out.

  • Richard Parfitt

    My shot gun licence,took 3 months and all they kept saying was, We have a lot to deal with.
    My licence office is in Winchester Hants,

  • Joe Kelly

    I must give credit to Northants Firearms Licensing Department. We must have the most effecient and helpful Unit in the country and I should be most concerned if Government cutbacks were to cause any interference here.

  • james

    Whilst we hear many complaints, I must say West Yorkshire Police set the bar very high in regards to service. They turn renewals around extremely quickly and FAC variations have only on occasion taken up to 2 weeks to return. Credit where Credit is due, I have only experienced great levels of service