BASC’s fourth annual review of firearms licensing performance shows a wide spectrum of results, ranging from very good to “shockingly dreadful”.

BASC’s director of firearms has called for consistency of performance following the publication of the review’s results in the form of a league table and said the figures strongly suggest the solution to the problem is for firearms licensing to be dealt with on a national basis.

The association’s firearms team has obtained and analysed figures for firearm (FAC) and shotgun (SGC) certificate grants and renewals and coterminous grants and renewals from individual police forces across England and Wales.

Nationally, the best performing forces based on average application processing times in 2020 were Cambridgeshire*, Bedfordshire*, Hertfordshire*, Warwickshire and Thames Valley.

The bottom five forces were South Wales, Durham, West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Avon & Somerset.

Thames Valley, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Warwickshire showed the greatest improvement in turnaround times in 2020 compared with 2019.

The forces with the greatest deterioration in turnaround times were Durham, Northumbria, Northamptonshire, Cumbria and Metropolitan.

Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms, said: “This current crop of figures reveals a wide spectrum of performance from the very good to the shockingly dreadful.

“Certificate holders in England and Wales face a postcode lottery as to the level of service that they will receive. This cannot be right when people pay for a service from the police. Consistency of performance needs to be achieved across the piece. It is interesting that those forces who have combined firearms licensing departments in alliances tend to perform better. This strongly suggests that the solution to the problem is for firearms licensing to be dealt with on a national basis.

“The lockdown of recent months has shown that greater efficiencies with modern IT can be achieved. It has shown some forces embracing modern IT and using it for things like online applications and online interviews.  BASC will be pressing for these to remain in place after the pandemic has ended.

“BASC is seeking the support of PCC candidates to secure improvement of badly performing firearms licensing departments.”

The latest table is based on figures from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020 and uses a traffic light system to show relative performance. Green cells indicate above average performance, while red cells show below average performers. Yellow indicates average performance. Each cell shows the relevant average, recorded in calendar days.

The table can be found here:

BASC members should contact the firearms team if they have any queries regarding the firearms licensing process.

In the run up to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections on 6 May, BASC’s political team has contacted all candidates to ensure our continuing concerns regarding firearms licensing are recognised. Read more here:


Notes to editors:

BASC’s research shows the mean average for FAC grants in 2020 was 75 days compared to 61 days in 2019 and 69 days in 2018.

SGC grants showed an 81 day average compared to 59 days in 2019, 61 in 2018 and 68 days in 2017. 

Coterminous grants had an average of 66 days, compared to 57 days in 2019, 58 days in 2018 and 63 days in 2017.

Renewals were also worse, with FACs being processed in an average of 56 days, up from 50 days in 2019, 48 days in 2018 and 53 days in 2017.

SGC renewals slowed to 49 days compared to a 43 day average in 2019, 39 days in 2018 and 43 days in 2017. 

Coterminous renewals crept up to 55 days from 48 in 2019. They were 46 in 2018 and 52 in 2017.

* Certification for Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire is undertaken by a single amalgamated licensing department.

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