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The Home Office is proposing a massive and unjustified hike in firearms licensing fees for approved shooting clubs, museums and those dealing in prohibited weapons in a consultation which ends on 9 March.

BASC is calling on all shooters in England, Wales and Scotland to email to firearmsconsultations@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk  objecting to the proposals before 9 March.

The new fees would represent a twelve-fold increase in some instances and will have adverse consequences for many in the shooting community. These include a reduction in services to the shooting community, the potential closure of small clubs, and higher membership fees for those that remain in operation.

In the longer term, we believe this unjustified proposal will make target shooting less accessible to new-comers, damage firearms heritage and harm participation rates.

BASC will be submitting a robust response to the consultation and is calling on all shooters to follow suit.

Click here for the proposals.

 

BASC BRIEFING

Home Office approved clubs

Home office approval is needed for clubs to allow members without personal Firearm Certificates to shoot using club firearms. It is also a legal requirement for those who have firearms solely for target shooting to be a member of such a club.

The proposed fee is £1,050. The current fee is £84. This is an 1150% increase. There are also other fees for variations which attracted no fee in the past, such as changing the name of the club – the proposed fee being £110.

Some clubs will struggle to find this fee. In any case it will result in higher membership fees which will act as a disincentive to take up the sport of shooting, especially within smaller clubs.

Prohibited weapons

The Home Secretary’s authority is needed to possess items contained in Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 (e.g. machine guns or pistols.), in addition to being registered with the police as a firearms dealer.

Currently, there are 313 authorisations, each of which lasts for 3 years.

At the moment, no charge is made for this authority. The proposed fee for the grant is £1,860 with renewal at £1,710. How these figures have been arrived at is unclear.

This is a one-size-fits all scenario where a major defence manufacturer who may make hundreds of prohibited weapons is charged the same registration fee as a single-trader forensic provider who may only handle a few prohibited weapons occasionally in the course of the authorisation.

The fee for the grant of a single attendance at a trade exhibition is £1,100, for an Olympic shooter or finder of a trophy of war is £470. Authority for a company supplying maritime security guards is a staggering £2,240.

Please note that the proposed fees for do not affect the licensing of any prohibited weapon issued under a firearms certificate (e.g. handguns for the humane dispatch of deer) but owners may find much harder to service such firearms if there are fewer licensed dealers as a result of higher costs.

Museums

A certificate (which may include prohibited weapons) is needed by museums which have firearms collections.

The proposed fee is £1,440. The current fee is £200. This is a 620% increase.

This may persuade smaller museums which only have a few firearms in their collections to dispose of them. Equally, historically significant weapons may be de-activated to avoid paying the fee.

BASC analysis

  • It is unclear whether or not the proposed fees are refundable in the event that an application is refused. Are they chargeable for an application or for a grant?
  • The Home Office Fees Working Group (which included officials, police Firearms Licensing Managers and representatives from the shooting organisations) has not been reconvened to examine the basis for these proposed fees. During 2013 &14, the Group adopted a very rigorous, evidence-based approach, arriving at sustainable figures that were acceptable to all its members. The same exercise needs to be done in respect of these proposed fees.
  • The impact assessment has not been subject to rigorous independent scrutiny.
  • No detailed scrutiny may mean that inefficiencies have been included in proposed fees.
  • The fee for the finder of a trophy of war prohibited weapon will discourage people from registering it legally. The temptation to dispose it on the black market will be strong.
  • The exercise does not appear to conform to Treasury guidelines. (The Government documents Managing Public Money 2013 (MPM) and CLASS (2010) 2) explicitly state that no charges may be levied for enforcement, start-up costs or one-off capital items (Appendix A6.1A).The OED defines enforcement as “the process of compelling observance of a law”. Accordingly, no component of any fee may be charged for any part of this process.
  • Consequently, BASC is concerned that if such an evidence-based assessment is now not to be used, when firearm and shotgun certificate fees are next examined (The Home Office has stated they will be), they may be subject to unreasonable rises. Effectively this exercise will become a template for how the next exercise will be conducted.
  • The stated purpose of the Firearms Acts 1968 – 1997 is “the prevention of crime and the preservation of public safety”. On that basis BASC strongly asserts that the public purse ought to bear a proportion of the costs of administering the firearms licensing system. This should not be portrayed as a subsidy to certificate holders but the proper investment of public money for the wider public good.

Please email firearmsconsultations@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk  voicing your objection by 9 March.

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