BASC says a new firearms consultation on firearms licensing is the most important in 35 years. The Minister for Crime and Policing Chris Philp launched an 8-week consultation on June 29th. BASC is urging shooters to respond so that the shooting community has a voice in decisions that will have an impact for decades to come.
It welcomes many of the proposals announced by the minister, including mandatory involvement of GPs and the review of the length of a certificate.
BASC’s head of firearms Bill Harriman says the Minister’s rejection of aligning shotgun and firearms legislation is welcome news.
He says the proposal would have crippled an already broken licensing service and significantly reduced the opportunity for new entrants to the sport, all without benefit to public safety.
“I am actually amazed by it because I had psyched myself up because of having had intelligence from our political contacts, having met civil servants, to expect something that was really not going to be very nice,” Bill says.
He adds that the result was nothing like as detrimental as he feared: “It’s really good news in relation to the Home Office minister’s attitude to firearms in general.”
The minister stressed that public safety is the government’s priority, but added: “At the same time, the measures to manage the risk to public safety must be proportionate and balanced with the fact that the vast majority of licensed firearm holders are law abiding and cause no concern.”
Bill says: “That is as close as you will ever get to any government endorsing firearms ownership by legitimate people who subject themselves to the licensing regime. And I’m really heartened by that.”
Bill welcomed the news that the minister is not inclined to align shotguns with Section 1 firearms such as rifles. He says: “That was always my greatest concern. I saw that as an existential threat for shooting and I am really pleased to see that reason has prevailed and this is not going to happen.”
The consultation includes 20 questions, plus the opportunity make a comment about any aspect of the firearms licensing system. Bill says there remain several harmful proposals that need to be opposed, and several helpful proposals to be supported.
Extra police powers
An area where Bill has concern is the proposals that police may get extra powers. He says: “No consultation ever comes out having in it everything that one party will like. The government has said this is a neutral consultation and it hasn’t taken a view. It’s just asking opinions.”
One suggestion is that police are given more powers to come into people’s houses without a warrant and seize firearms. He says: “I don’t know the full detail of the implications for that, but my instinct is that that’s got to be wrong in a democracy.”
Bill welcomes news that the government will put half a million pounds into firearms licensing training. He says: “The announcement today of the allocation of £500,000 to fund police firearms licensing personnel training, and for this training to become mandatory for all police firearms licensing teams, will enhance public safety.”
Police reporting hotline
However Bill is perturbed to see the suggestion of a special hotline for people to phone in with concerns about certificate holders. He says: “If that’s not an invitation for abuse, then I really don’t know what is.”
BASC is opposed to the proposal for mandatory prohibition. The consultation says: “The prohibition from possessing firearms by persons with serious custodial sentences has been enshrined in law since the Firearms Act 1920. It is a concept that has served public safety well. Accordingly, prohibition should only apply where allegations of wrongdoing have resulted in a conviction. That does not stop a chief officer from declining to issue a certificate if the nature of an offence discloses any risk to public safety. BASC advises shooters to say ‘no’ to this suggestion.
GPs’ mandatory engagement
BASC supports the idea that GPs’ engagement with the firearms licensing process should be mandatory. In advice to shooters BASC says: “As firearms licensing is principally undertaken for public safety reasons, it follows that GPs’ placing of a marker on medical records should be mandatory. He says: “Too many GPs are risking public safety by opting out on the spurious grounds of conscientious objection. You cannot validly object in conscience to measures to improve public safety. GPs have a moral duty to participate and if they are unwilling to do so voluntarily, they should be compelled. This duplicates the system that applies to medical conditions and driving.”
BASC is opposed to the idea that interim medical checks should be made on licensed firearms holders between the grant of the certificate and any application to renew. But it does support the proposal that the digital marker for use by GPs on medical records should be visible to other health professionals.
Workable and efficient
Bill says BASC will continue to push the government to keep improving the firearms licensing system. He says: “BASC remain committed to working with the police and Home Office to ensure a workable and efficient licensing system to the benefit of our members. Our response will focus on ensuring that remains the case. BASC will be producing a wider brief for members as soon as possible.”
Have your say
Bill encourages all shooters to take part in the consultation: “My appeal is very simple. Anybody who has a firearm and who shoots must respond. It’s a simple process. It took me five minutes using the online form. If you can’t spend five minutes to save shooting, then frankly you shouldn’t be shooting.”
The eight-week consultation on the licensing of shotguns and rifles in England, Wales and Scotland ends on 23 August 2023.