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IS firearms licensing a public service?

Mike Swan asks whether licence holders should pay anyway?

Shooting a Beretta

David Jamieson, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, wants a fee increase so police are not “subsidising gun ownership”

I am pleased to see that BASC’s Bill Harriman is suitably critical of the inefficiencies of Mr Jamieson’s force in not doing the job within the agreed fee framework.

But there is a more fundamental question; why should licence-holders pay anyway? Mr Jamieson is conveniently forgetting that this licensing procedure is not a service to gun owners as such. As the police frequently point out, their duty is to the public; to ensure that guns are in safe hands.

Police inefficiencies make me more hard line over this issue. While I accept that current fees are not exorbitant, I am far from happy.

Story of wasted time

My own example tells a story of wasted time that is hardly credible. In 2012, when the firearms enquiry officer (FEO) turned up to do the usual check, she told me that my gun cabinet was “not up to the modern standard”. I was issued with a temporary permit for two months, and a rude and threatening letter saying that I needed to fit a new cabinet within the deadline or my guns would be taken away.

Knowing that this was wrong, I dug in my heels and eventually a second FEO was sent to inspect. He said while my cabinet did not meet BS7550, my overall security was fine. I eventually received a letter of confirmation from Dorset firearms department, also saying that my file would be marked to that effect, to avoid future issues. Bill at BASC was a huge help throughout, giving me chapter and verse on both the law and Home Office guidance when I needed it.

Certificates “in the post”

Last summer I received the reminder and sent in my renewal application. A week before my certificates expired, I’d heard nothing, so I emailed and by coincidence received a phone call the following morning. I was told that my certificates would be in the post, with no need for the usual visit. Progress at last, I thought, but two months later, when the certificates had not turned up, I emailed to ask where they were — no answer. Two weeks later I emailed again and the phone rang that day.

This resulted in further questions over the security issue, me taking and sending photographs, and eventually certificates that should have come in September arrived just before Christmas. They came with another threatening letter telling me that my cabinet does not meet BS7550 and an anonymous superintendant advised that I should replace it.

Still no response

I complained to the police and crime commissioner and was contacted by a firearms licensing manager, who promised to look into my case and get back to me. That was in January and, having heard nothing, I emailed her with a blow-by-blow account a month later. Apart from an automated reply I still have no response.

One more thing: I applied for a shotgun certificate for my 14-year-old son at the same time as my renewal last June, thinking that would make the job easier for a hard-pressed licensing team. Ten months on we have heard nothing other than that it is with the FEO. Perhaps I should ask for a refund until they can be bothered to sort this out? And Mr Jamieson thinks that we should pay extra.