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Chief constable calls for simpler firearms licence conditions

Conditions for firearms licensing in the UK should be streamlined and only used if they are both “proportionate and necessary in reducing the risk to public safety or a statutory requirement”.

That is the view of Andy Marsh, Association of Chief Police Officers lead for the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group (ACPO FELWG), who has written to the chief of senior officers in charge of firearms licensing throughout the UK.

In his letter, Chief Constable Marsh mentions two conditions “of particular debate” — the Any Other Lawful Quarry (AOLQ) and the mentoring/accompanied conditions.

He wrote: “At present, some forces issue conditions which dictate what [AOLQ] quarry can be shot with a specific calibre, leading to requests to vary conditions thus making inefficient use of staff time, i.e. a shooter could hold a deerstalking rifle and not be allowed to shoot a fox with that same rifle as it breaches their condition.”

“I would like to encourage the use of the AOLQ condition on all firearms certificates with immediate effect.”

“A force should be satisfied that if an applicant is suitable to hold a firearm certificate and is deemed safe to do so, there is no requirement to restrict the quarry they shoot by the use of conditions.”

Chief Constable Marsh said that the mentoring/accompanied conditions “appears to be a suitable condition” at first glance, but he advises forces to consider its use carefully, and that he aims to remove the use of the condition.

He says that “this mentor does not require any specific training or qualification to undertake this role. Furthermore, we do not enforce that the mentor actually teaches the new applicant and indeed if this were being enforced, I would question if this was the most efficient use of our resources.”

He added: “So through an unchecked and unqualified process, we the firearms departments, have to once again vary a certificate if the mentoring condition is applied, thus causing further delays and added bureaucracy.”

The letter has been welcomed by shooting organisations and the shooting community at large.

BASC senior firearms officer Mike Eveleigh told Shooting Times: “Of all the problems our members ring us for advice about, difficulties with conditions on their firearms certificates is one of the foremost — surprising really when you think that only one in five certificates are for firearms.”

“We have been negotiating for years to get unnecessary, bureaucratic and unenforceable conditions removed, so we welcome this result; this common-sense and helpful move by Chief Constable Marsh and his staff.”

Shooting Times contributor David Frost said he welcomed Chief Constable Marsh’s “sensible and practical approach to conditions”, adding: “He has listened to the concerns of the shooting community.”

“The use of AOLQ and the abolition of mentoring will save the police time and effort at no cost to public safety. Certificate holders will face considerably less hassle.”

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Firearms licence conditions