BASC is issuing advice to members in Merseyside after receiving reports the police are conducting unannounced ‘spot checks’ on gun owners.

BASC understands that Merseyside’s firearms licensing department is visiting the homes of firearm and shotgun certificate holders and demanding to inspect firearms and their security.

Home Office guidance does not allow such action by the police without good reason and BASC has written to Merseyside Police Chief Constable Andy Cooke to seek explanation as to why the force appears to be adopting the practice.

BASC has warned the approach risks damaging the relationship between the shooting community and Merseyside Police.

Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms, said: “It appears the visits have been made without prior arrangement and by a team of up to four people.

“In all cases, no proper reason was given for the visit. Such that was given was normally limited to unsatisfactory phrases like ‘spot checks’ and ‘routine visit’.

“It is quite clear from the 2016 Home Office Guide on Firearms Licensing that the police cannot just turn up to someone’s home and demand entry unless they have proper reason to do so.

“They must make a proper explanation to the certificate holder, who still retains discretion not to admit them. While accepting that a certificate holder will want to maintain a relationship with their licensing department, BASC’s advice is ‘no reasoned explanation, no entry’.”

BASC is contacting all members in Merseyside outlining the Home Office guidance, which only allows for unannounced home visits where it is ‘judged necessary, based on specific intelligence in light of a particular threat or risk of harm’.

Mr Harriman added: “There is no statutory right of entry to a private home for the purposes of firearms licensing. If it is inconvenient to admit police personnel for any reason they should be told that this is the case and be asked to return at a convenient time, having made a proper appointment to do so.

“A clear and reasoned explanation as to why the visit has been made should be made to the certificate holder. Vague excuses such as ‘it’s just routine’ should not be accepted.”

Garry Doolan

Garry Doolan is BASC’s deputy director of communications and public affairs. He has more than 20 years experience of journalism and the media. He joined the organisation in 2016 and is a keen shooter and beater, with his springer spaniel Quincy.

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