It’s been a busy time on the firearms front in recent months and, as ever, BASC are doing all they can to monitor and improve services to the collective benefit of all firearms users
Licenses and fees
Offensive weapons consultation
The Home Office has published proposals to ban the ownership of .50-calibre rifles and rapid-firing rifles, such as the VZ 58 Manually Actuated Release System (MARS) rifle; this is in addition to proposals to restrict the online sale of knives, so that they cannot be delivered to a private residential address and must be collected at a place where the buyer’s ID can be checked.
We believe that there is a lack of evidence to support all these proposals and we have made this clear in our consultation response.
Antique firearms consultation
On a more positive note, we have welcomed Home Office proposals to change the laws on antique firearms. This could provide some clarity and certainty that has been missing for more than a century.
We believe that the changes will remove ambiguity by providing a definitive list of accepted obsolete calibres and ignition methods, and will allow a firearm of a calibre and type subsequently not accepted as antique to be added to a firearm or shotgun certificate.
In developing our consultation response, we have drawn on our close links to the museum world, the antiques trade and collectors’ associations to ensure that collectors are not disadvantaged by changes to the current position, as well as exploiting opportunities to expand the range of antique firearms that can be collected without any certification.
Police Scotland inspection
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland recently ran an online survey inviting anyone who had applied to Police Scotland for a firearm, shotgun or airgun certificate in the last two years to give their opinion on the current licensing process. The results of the survey are part of its inspection of Police Scotland’s licensing arrangements. We aim to ensure that this inspection leads to significant improvements to the Scottish licensing system.
Northern Ireland’s licensing delays
We recently met with Northern Ireland’s auditor general to alert him to delays in the firearm licensing process. We discussed the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) failure to consult on their intention to remove the paper firearms licensing application system, despite their statutory obligations. Current backlogs are believed to be in excess of 4,000 applications.
We also spoke about the PSNI’s failure to publish processing times, despite promises to the NI Assembly’s Committee for Justice during evidence sessions prior to the increase in firearms licensing fees. We are confident that the auditor general will use his influence to reduce processing times and ensure service levels are improved.
GPs charging “illegal” medical fees
BASC members in Lincolnshire have been experiencing problems with their GP practices when applying for the grant or renewal of
certificates. Many have received invoices for varying amounts together with an accompanying letter. The content of the letter contains a specific threat that if they do not pay the fee, the GP will write to the police and tell them to assume that the applicant suffers a relevant medical condition which precludes them from holding a certificate.
We have challenged these GP practices that they could be committing criminal offences by attempting to extract unnecessary fees from applicants, and we have reported the GP practices and Lincolnshire Medical Council to the Fitness to Practise Directorate of the General Medical Council.
BASC and Countryside Alliance have asked the Home Office to reconvene the Medical Evidence Working Group, which has not met since the medical scheme was introduced in April 2016.
We are continuing to advise BASC members not to pay any fee which a GP may demand upon receipt of an initial letter from the police advising that a patient is applying for a licence. You can visit our website for more information and advice on this topic.
STAY UP TO DATE For any information on shooting and conservation, the BASC website should be your first point of reference. www.basc.org.uk
New proposals promise clarity for buyers of antique firearms