Gun license hikes "understandable" says Gloucestershire Olympic shooting expert

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Written by:   | Posted 11-June-2013 8:44

Increasing UK gun licensing fees is an "understandable" step, according to a Gloucestershire shooting expert.

Ian Coley, who runs his own shooting school, near Andoversford, said he could not argue with calls by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to almost double the charge to pay for police administrative costs.

The increase, from £50 to £94, would help to plug a massive leak in police spending.

The Gloucestershire force spent £400,000 on processing applications last year but recouped less than half of that sum.

Mr Coley said: "I think it’s understandable.

"Getting a gun licence is quite a long process at the moment and can take anywhere between three and five months.

"That’s the police doing the best they can with the resources they have got so I certainly don’t wish to criticise.

"We have the most thorough gun control rules in the world and it’s important the process is done properly.

"But the way things are at the moment it can take too long so if paying more can help speed the process up then I don’t think that’s a bad thing."

Gun licensing charges have not risen for more than a decade. A five-year firearms or shotgun certificate currently costs £50, but police forces say they cost around £200 each to do the paperwork.

ACPO estimates the issuing of licenses is costing taxpayers more than £18.5m a year because the cost of processing applications far exceeds the amount paid for them.

In Gloucestershire, the net cost to the force last year was £210,000. In 2011/12 it was £229,000.

County police and crime commissioner Martin Surl said: "I think the price should reflect the cost but any increase to licence holders must also be linked to the quality of service that is provided by the constabulary to those who apply for licences.

"But it’s not just about a piece of paper.

"Firearms are dangerous things. In the wrong hands they’re deadly and it’s worth taking a little extra time to make sure an applicant is fit to hold a licence."

Some gun owners have voiced concerns that the hike would see a fall in the number of people getting into shooting as a sport.

Mike Yardley, spokesman for the Shooting Sports Trust, said it would hit young shooters hardest.

"Many people feel this is a back door way of controlling the numbers of people in the shooting community. It’s quite an expensive sport as it is," he said.

Mike Eveleigh, of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said that licensing firearms had become "a bureaucratic nightmare," for both police and people involved in sport shooting.

He said: "We will support police in their efforts to remove bureaucracy but we don’t want to be asked to pay a large sum for a promise of future improvements which we haven’t seen."

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