Labour Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has outlined plans for Firearms Licensing Offices to be run at-cost rather than at-loss if Labour are elected at next year’s General Election.

Reported in The Telegraph, Ms Cooper (MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford), plays off the £17-19m spent subsidising Firearms Licensing against the shortfall in funding across Police Forces nationwide, and wants to better spend that money on more officers.

Whilst many shooters will be sympathetic to the plight of our Police forces, and would generally not bear a grudge against an inflationary increase (which would place a certificate at £80-90, up from the £50 it has stood at since 2001), any increase above and beyond simple inflation would need to be seen to be matched by the Police with improvements in service and turnaround times.

Home Office Guidance stipulates that renewals should not be submitted more than 2 months prior to the expiration date of a certificate, clearly indicating that a renewal should take less than 2 months to process. Given that some Force areas are taking 4-6 months to process renewals, it is not unreasonable of shooters to feel that it is not their house that needs to be put into order, nor is it necessarily a lack of funding driving these delays (it should be noted some areas turn around renewals in less than a month or even a fortnight. They should be commended).

Points in Case:

  • Reports have been received of FEOs conducting Home Visits for trivial variations, which realistically do not require such.
  • One-for-one variations have long been a bone of contention which play no part in actually safeguarding the public.
  • The additional “local” paperwork some forces insist on over and above the standard pro forma provided by the Home Office.
  • The practice of not charging those refused a Firearm or Shotgun Certificate even though the legwork has been done by the back office. Shooters should not be subsidising those applications.
  • The latest shenanigans of some forces areas trying to illegally force applicants to submit medical reports at their own expense show a lack of good faith from some Licensing Managers.
  • That the ridiculous scenario at South Yorkshire Firearms Licensing was allowed to go on for months shows a total lack of oversight and interest by higher management.

 

One has to think that David Cameron’s blocking of a proposed rise to £88 was well intentioned but misguided. No one likes price rises, but a simple inflationary increase is unlikely to break many shooter’s bank accounts, and would have clearly put the ball in the court of Police Forces to then justify further increases, or improve their internal procedures such as to not waste public time and money.

It is clear that Labour would like to see a rise to the oft-quoted £200 figure, with no expectation on Police Forces to actually improve their performance or efficiencies, which is fundamentally wrong. You cannot simply stick your paw out and demand more money whenever you feel a bit strapped – there are many avenues to consider for cost reduction which would not adversely affect public safety before throwing cash at the problem becomes the only way forward.

Constituents of Ms Cooper may wish to write to her on this matter (as may any other shooter, given her Shadow Cabinet status). Meanwhile, with a General Election now looming less than 9 months away, shooters should be writing to their MPs and prospective candidates for their opinion on shooting and firearms licensing.