BASC was among a group of partner organisations which briefed Northern Ireland Policing Board’s performance committee in response to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) plans for a new online-only firearms licensing system.
BASC, the UK’s largest shooting organisation, joined the Gun Trade Guild NI (GTG NI) supported by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) in outlining concerns about PSNI’s controversial decision to drop paper applications.
The organisations had met with PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd in June to express concerns over the online-only system. ACC Todd responded by saying that as a gesture of goodwill he was prepared to keep the paper system until the end of March next year. But, when asked recently about the timeframe for implementation, PSNI were unable to provide one.
BASC Northern Ireland director Tommy Mayne said: “We are grateful for the opportunity to share our joint concerns with the performance committee. While we support the PSNI in principle in their plan to introduce an online licensing system, we feel strongly that the option to submit a paper application should remain for at least five years.
“The move to an entirely online system is a significant change in PSNI policy that will affect approximately 59,000 certificate holders and more than 80 small businesses. But there has been a serious lack of consultation.”
GTG NI chairman David Robinson said: “The performance committee are now better informed in relation to the potential consequences of an online-only system. They will now raise this issue again with the PSNI.”
UFU senior policy officer Kate Cairns said: “NI has the poorest quality broadband connectivity in the UK, yet PSNI is the only licensing authority in the UK imposing online-only firearms applications.
“There has been no appropriate suggestions as to how this system will be inclusive to the digitally excluded or those with poor computer literacy levels. The UFU would support the introduction of an online system if a paper-based option still existed. We feel that PSNI should incentivise the online system to make it the preferred option of application.”
BASC, the GTG NI and the UFU remain committed to working in partnership with the PSNI, the Policing Board and elected representatives to develop a firearms licensing system that is inclusive for all.