Police forces have been known to try to make life more difficult for licence applicants - but we must adopt a united front against them, says Alasdair Mitchell
We either stand together or get picked off one-by-one.
The relevance of this for shooters was highlighted by P. Cree writing recently, detailing how he had told fellow shoot members that BASC advised that nobody should pay “illegal” medical fees, only for three members to admit that they had indeed paid up because “it was the easy way out”. Mr Cree went on to explore, in a wonderfully well-argued manner, how such attitudes are counterproductive.
We all know that Police Scotland has invented its own firearms procedures, hiding behind the Holyrood smokescreen. Yet even south of the border, where Home Office guidance is supposed to mean something, we find Lincolnshire Police colluding with local GPs to facilitate demands for money. How did it come to this? The short answer is that we let them.
To be clear, the payments I am talking about are for the GP’s initial scan and marking of our medical records, rather than for anything more detailed. I have explained before how GPs are, in fact, in a difficult position because of their contracts, with the British Medical Association having made promises it could not keep.
Leaving these specifics aside, the fact is that when we are faced with the prospect of standing on principle or just playing along in return for quiet life, many of us choose the latter. This is perfectly understandable. But the cumulative effect of such behaviour can be unfortunate.
Bamboozle shotgun licence applicants
I recall, some years ago, working on a game fair stand in north-east England. It was at the time when Durham Constabulary had decided to bamboozle certificate applicants into filling out a pre-application questionnaire. This request had no lawful validity whatsoever. It was merely a backside-covering tactic from a force that had been heavily criticised after the dismal performance of its firearms department in the case of the Michael Atherton murders. On its website, BASC published clear advice not to participate in the Durham scheme.
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Nonetheless, many did. And Durham Constabulary later cited this in a review, pointing out that a percentage of applicants had “voluntarily taken part” in the scheme. In other words, the failure of applicants to hold the line was used to give the dodgy scheme some legitimacy.
Anyway, on the stand, a chap approached me and confided that he had gone along with the Durham scheme and had come horribly unstuck, for a variety of reasons that I won’t reveal. I felt very sorry for him. Yes, he had seen the BASC advice. But he felt it was in his own best interest to comply with the police “request”. He feared that if he didn’t, the police might find some reason to delay his certificate renewal. The irony is that through trying to appease the police, he had made some mistakes and his certificate was now at risk. The BASC firearms department had to spend a considerable amount of time helping him.
During the two days, several other shotgun licence applicants turned up, citing similar problems. And here’s the kicker — at the same time, there were much outrage on shooting-related web forums about the Durham scheme, with chants of “what are our shooting organisations doing about it?”