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BASC warns Government of firearms licensing crisis

The organisation has submitted a response to a Home Affairs inquiry into policing priorities, highlighting the shortcomings over licensing

A “largely unprofessional, overburdened and poorly resourced police licensing service puts public safety at risk”, BASC has told a Home Affairs Committee inquiry into policing priorities.

BASC’s written submission to the inquiry is a broad, sweeping critique of the current situation across the 43 firearms licensing departments in England and Wales. It comes on the back of proposals to increase the cost of firearms licences to reflect the police’s cost in producing them, a change that it is thought would likely push the cost of a shotgun certificate past £200. (Read how long to get your shotgun and firearms certificate?)

The inquiry is focusing on the state of policing in England and Wales, highlighting low public confidence and damaging high-profile cases. It will examine what a modern police service should look like and how to ensure the highest standards among police officers.


BASC’s submission, which has now been published, concludes: “Firearms licensing is in crisis. The 43 licensing authorities in England and Wales are unable to manage their workload, with some refusing to process grants and many taking more than a year to process renewals.”

Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms and regular Shooting Times contributor, said: “Although firearms licensing is only a microcosm of the total policing output, the issues raised by the Home Affairs Committee are reflective of the current licensing system we are witnessing.

“While the committee will most likely stick to producing higher level recommendations, BASC felt it necessary to feed its view of the current state of firearms licensing into the process.

“BASC’s written submission will make tough reading for many chief constables and firearms licensing managers. It highlights the current delays and significant inconsistencies across the 43 firearms licensing departments.”

The criticism comes as the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, renewed his calls for tighter shotgun licensing in the wake of a shooting in Euston on 14 January. Appearing on LBC Radio, Sir Keir said: “There are many illegally owned guns out there and there are legally owned guns, which I don’t think should be in the hands of the people who are legally owning them.” 

Asked if he wanted gun ownership laws “made even tougher”, Sir Keir said that he did, while stressing that people including “farmers and sports shooting clubs” needed to possess them.