New Consultation On Firearms Licensing Launched By The Government
The Home Office has launched a public consultation on the licensing of firearms and shotguns which will run from 29th June for just 8 weeks. It is probably the most important consultative document on firearms licensing for decades, and will affect gun ownership and use for years to come.
The National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) is preparing a submission from the organisation but it is imperative that all with an interest take part in this consultation as individuals. The results of recent surveys into other subjects clearly show that the Home Office and Government pay attention to the numbers of responses from individuals as well as from representative organisations.
The full consultation document can be found by clicking on this link. Please read it thoroughly and consider it very carefully before responding.
The response form can be completed online at: https://www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/firearms-licensing/
It can also be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to:
Firearms licensing consultation
Firearms Policy Unit
5th floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
The NGO has suggested a guide to answering the public consultation:
Q1. Regarding the establishment of a new police power to enter homes without a warrant and to immediately seize firearms, shotguns and ammunition when certificate holders are undo-operative.
Comment; This is a complex area of law where the police already have powers to enter property either where there is an immediate threat to life, where someone has already been arrested for an offence or with the authority of a warrant issued by a magistrate. A new power should not be granted without extensive safeguards for the certificate holder and others who live at the address. If granted it should have a right of appeal, within a very short space of time, where the police failed to carry out a review of their actions.
Q2. Concerns the prohibition of persons who have been sentenced to imprisonment from possessing firearms or ammunition.
Answer; YES or NO
Comment; The NGO has no strong views. The prohibition from possessing any firearm or ammunition for a person who has been sentenced to certain periods of imprisonment has to date served the public well. It does not stop a The Police from applying the ‘suitable person’ test within chapter 3 of the statutory guidelines and refusing a certificate on those grounds. However with various and new methods of dealing with offenders it is an area of the law which perhaps could be brought up to date.
Q3. Relates to the term of a certificate before renewal is required.
Answer; YES and more than 5 years.
Comment; The police now have linked databases which will bring any adverse activity by a certificate holder, which they are aware of, to the attention of the licensing department. This coupled with the medical marker system will enable the life of certificates to be extended.
Q4. Should people applying for shotgun certificates supply two referees?
Answer; YES or NO
Comment; The NGO has no strong views. At the time of the last review (2013) a single referee for a shotgun certificate was deemed sufficient. Firearm certificate holders are required to provide two. It is possible that had there been 2 referees for Jake Davison the Plymouth shootings may have been prevented.
Q5. Should a referee be a person of particular standing in the community
Comment; The applicant may not know a person of particular standing in the community, it is more important that the referee knows the applicant well and is able to express an opinion as to their character and suitability.
Q6. Should a referee be able to demonstrate a good knowledge of the applicant’s circumstances relating to their possession of firearms or shotguns
Comment; Unless a referee knows an applicant well and is able to relate to their possession of guns the reference is useless.
Q7. Should the application form provide a checklist for referees and require a written declaration that they have disclosed all relevant facts.
Answer; YES or NO.
Comment; The NGO has no strong views. A checklist may be helpful but referees might be reluctant to sign a declaration.
Q8. Should the Statutory Guidance include more detailed guidance on the information they are seeking from referees.
Answer; YES or NO.
Comment; The NGO has no strong views, the statutory guidance already provides some help and a list may help the police but should not be so prescriptive as to deter referees from the process.
Q9.Should the police look at the circumstances when individuals change referees between application and renewal.
Comment; It is already open to the police to ask ask this question but there may be so many good reasons for the change that the reason may be irrelevant to the enquiry. What matters is that the current referee knows the applicant well.
Q.10. Would the sharing of a unique reference number between the applicant and the referee make it easier for the referee to report concerns, decline the reference or report later concerns to the police?
Comment; The referee will already know the persons name and address, they can already act as indicated, sharing a reference number will not assist.
Q.11 Should the Statutory Guidance be expanded and made more prescriptive in relation to suitability checks?
Comment; The latest (2023) version already contains an extensive list of checks which the police can carry out. It will not assist to add even more.
Q.12. Should the test as to a person’s suitability to be trusted with firearms by based on the balance of probability test.
Comment; This is the test that has been used for many years and has served well when enquiries have been properly completed.
Q.13. Should neurodevelopment disorders (types of disorder that influence how the brain functions and alters neurological development, causing difficulties in social, cognitive, and emotional functioning) should be added to the list of relevant medical conditions in the Statutory Guidance and the application form?
Comment; Some of these are not always identified by applicants and GP’s when dealing with applications and GP letters.
Q.14 Should GP’s engagement with the firearms licensing process be mandatory?
Comment; GP’s have a general responsibility for public safety although NOT for the decision making process in firearms licensing. They should not be able to absent themselves from this responsibility. In driving law they are required to report certain conditions which will affect a person’s ability to drive to The DVLA. They should have a similar role with firearms licensing.
Q.15. Should interim medical checks be made between grant and renewal of certificates?
Comment; If the medical marker system is introduced fully and operated by GP’s it will provide a better safeguard than occasional checks by the police. If the GP, a medical professional, raises a concern prompted by the medical marker the police may then do a more thorough investigation. This will be far more effective than random checks by the police who as a rule have no medical qualifications.
Q.16. Should the medical marker on GP records of licensed firearms holders be visible to other health professionals.
Comment; Any professional medical person dealing with the certificate holder should be able to advise the police of issues in urgent cases. This will not always be the GP but could be another Doctor or Consultant who is dealing with the person. There is an issue with security of firearms and knowledge of where they may be found but this is probably outweighed by concerns for public safety.
Q.17. Should there be more mental health advice and support for licensed firearms holders through advice leaflets and other support?
Comment; Police Scotland has, with the help of The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust, introduced some valuable advice for shooters which should be extended to England and Wales. Certificate holders must be able to seek help for mental health problems without necessarily jeopardising their certificates. Some police forces deal with these issues very well, others need a more enlightened attitude.
Q. 18. Should a specific ‘phone line be introduced in addition to the services already available to report concerns about licensed firearms users?
Comment; There are already very good methods of contacting the police including 999, 101 and crime stoppers. Police call handlers must be alert to dealing with or directing relevant calls appropriately.
Q.19. How should any specific phone line be funded; public or other source?
Answer; Such a phone line is not necessary and may lead to confusion.
Q.20. Would it be better to raise awareness of existing avenues open to raise concerns about a licensed firearms holder (999, 101, crimestoppers, force firearms licensing contacts) than creating a new ‘phone line?
Comment; There are already several ways of contacting the police, there is no need for another. Properly handling of calls on the existing systems would be better. Firearms Licensing units should be resourced so that they can take calls during all their working hours rather than for just a few hours a day or not at all which is the case with some forces.