THE British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) met the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Minister for Justice Claire Sugden (Independent Unionist) to discuss firearms licensing concerns.
The meeting, arranged by SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone, deputy speaker of the Assembly and chair of the all-party group on country sports, provided the opportunity to discuss concerns held by BASC and Gun Trade Guild NI (GTG NI) over the introduction of an online-only firearms licensing system.
Significant delays in the processing of firearms applications were also on the agenda. DUP MLA Paul Frew, chair of the Assembly’s Committee for Justice and UUP MLA Robin Swann, chair of the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, also attended the meeting at Stormont.
Tommy Mayne, BASC’s Northern Ireland director, said: “We are grateful for the opportunity to meet the minister to discuss our concerns over an entirely online firearms licensing system.
“We fully support PSNI plans to introduce the online system. However, strongly oppose an online-only process which will see the option to submit a paper application scrapped six months after the new system goes live.
“We highlighted the PSNI’s lack of consultation on this issue and the fact that it is not the first time that PSNI have failed to consult on major changes of policy which significantly affect shooting interests in NI.
“We believe that PSNI has not met statutory obligations which require them to consult with the public regarding the development of policy.”
David Robinson, chair of GTG NI, said: “We thank the minister for the opportunity to put our concerns directly to her.
“These also included the current interpretation of NI firearms legislation regarding the current one-off-one-on system which does not allow the changing of semi-automatic handguns for a revolver or a semi-automatic rifle for a bolt action rifle of the same calibre.
“We also discussed the dealer categories and the potential for increasing the number and type of firearms dealers may hold. We firmly believe that these issues can be resolved relatively quickly.”
Patsy McGlone said: “This was a useful meeting which allowed many of the issues which are causing frustration to sporting shooters, firearms dealers and public representatives to be brought directly to the minister’s attention. Firearms licensing and its delayed processes need to be sorted once and for all.”