Delays in processing firearms licence requests are causing frustration and concern among sporting shooters.
Statistics have revealed that Hampshire Police had an accumulation of 13,000 licences waiting to be processed in 2012. There was also, on average, a five-month delay for firearms applications being processed by this police force. Comparing this figure against other forces, Thames Valley Police averaged a 25-day turnaround, Surrey took 30 days and Wiltshire 35.
Such extensive delays in renewing licences left many gun owners without their guns, instead being forced to store them with registered firearms dealers for the foreseeable future.
In some cases, Gun Trade News understands, shooters were told to simply keep their guns, even though by the letter of the law this is an absolute offence with a penalty of five years’ imprisonment. BASC senior firearms officer Mike Eveleigh said: “It’s something that horrified us. It’s very galling for the sporting shooters to see the police on one hand saying ‘we are hard on gun crime’ – and yet in this particular case allowing people to possess guns without a certificate. It’s a crime to possess a gun without a certificate and therefore completely wrong for the police to be complicit in that.”
The build up of applications began with a surge in the number of renewals in 2011, and continued into 2012, when there was an average backlog of 13,000 licences between April and December. Chief Superintendent Ann Wakefield said: “Last year the backlog of work was enormous. We recognised then and we recognise now that it was a very poor service and not what we aim to provide. It badly inconvenienced a significant number of certificate holders.” Hampshire Police added that additional staff had been brought in to help, and said it has now made the licence application and renewal process more efficient.”