Tens of thousands of firearm certificate holders could be at risk of breaking the law as the coronavirus outbreak restricts police resources, according to BASC.
The UK’s largest shooting organisation is aware that police forces are starting to divert officers and staff away from functions they consider to be non-essential such as firearms licensing. With increased pressure on GPs and health services, delays may also be seen in the licensing process where medical records are required.
The association is warning that licences may not now be renewed in time to prevent certificate holders falling foul of the law. Those that require firearms for their livelihoods will be at a severe disadvantage.
BASC has also received evidence that shows some forces will be refusing all first time applications.
As a result, BASC has called for a six-month extension for all firearms licences which are due to expire during the coronavirus outbreak. This move will free up police resources and not disadvantage certificate holders.
Christopher Graffius, executive director of public affairs and communications, said: “Nobody underestimates the challenges facing the UK as a result of coronavirus, but it is essential that those in possession of firearms are not put outside the law.
“Countryside managers, such as farmers, gamekeepers and pest controllers, require firearms to assist in crucial management and limitations on firearms licensing could have significant consequences.
“Firearms licensing is understandably not high up the priority list for the Home Office at present, but BASC is pushing hard at the highest level to ensure every effort is made to ensure those in possession of firearms are not left in an illegal situation or denied work as a result of delays.
“We are asking the Home Office and Chief Constables to extend firearms certificates that are due to expire.
“We are also proposing the creation of a centralised team that would be responsible for processing essential grants for those requiring the use of firearms.”