Firearms licensing during coronavirus outbreak

What is happening?

Police forces are starting to divert officers and staff away from functions they consider to be non-essential during the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. With increased pressure on GPs and health services, this may impact on the firearms licensing process where police forces have made GP verification mandatory.

Some police forces are now refusing to accept first-time applications and variations. However, they are focusing on renewals so that existing firearm and shotgun certificate holders remain in legal possession of their guns.

Despite this, many may not be renewed in time to prevent certificate holders falling foul of the law. Those that require firearms for their livelihoods will be at a severe disadvantage.

What’s our position?

The challenges facing police forces as a result of coronavirus cannot be underestimated. But, it is essential that those in possession of firearms are not falling outside of the law.

Countryside managers such as farmers, gamekeepers and pest controllers require firearms to assist in crucial management. Limitations on firearms licensing could have significant consequences for these roles.

As a result, BASC has called for a six-month extension for all firearm and shotgun certificates which are due to expire during the coronavirus outbreak. This move will free up police resources and not disadvantage certificate holders.

What are we doing about this?

BASC is pushing hard at the highest levels to ensure every effort is made so those in possession of firearms are not left in an illegal situation or denied work as a result of delays.

We have contacted all police forces and are using this webpage to provide the latest updates on what is happening at each force level.

What is my police force doing?

Click on the drop-down menus below to find out more about firearms licensing in your force’s area during the coronavirus outbreak.

We are continually updating this webpage as new information comes in.

England

The firearms licensing manager for the combined licensing department for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire has provided the following update:

The firearms licensing department is dealing with what they consider to be critical risk work only at the moment. They are not performing any home visits so;

  • New grant applications are being be put on hold until further notice – the department is not prepared to issue a grant without a home visit.
  • Renewals – these are being treated as a priority. The vast majority of interviews are performed on the telephone. If it is felt that a visit is required the individual will be issued with an extension of their current certificate until such time as a visit can be conducted.
  • Anyone experiencing delays due to not being able to obtain a GP report will be given an automatic extension of eight weeks (currently) and informed as such. There has been no cause to do this as yet. The department may review that extension period as we go along to a longer time, but the full renewal will not be completed until we have the doctors report. Nobody will be allowed to expire for this reason.
  • Variations are being held pending at this time, unless critical for individual circumstances such as occupation etc.
  • Customers will experience delays in receiving their new licenses for issues such as change of address, and replacements etc.

Click here to visit Bedfordshire police’s website.

The firearms licensing manager for the combined licensing department for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire has provided the following update:

The firearms licensing department is dealing with what they consider to be critical risk work only at the moment. They are not performing any home visits so;

  • New grant applications are being be put on hold until further notice – the department is not prepared to issue a grant without a home visit.
  • Renewals – these are being treated as a priority. The vast majority of interviews are performed on the telephone. If it is felt that a visit is required the individual will be issued with an extension of their current certificate until such time as a visit can be conducted.
  • Anyone experiencing delays due to not being able to obtain a GP report will be given an automatic extension of eight weeks (currently) and informed as such. There has been no cause to do this as yet. The department may review that extension period as we go along to a longer time, but the full renewal will not be completed until we have the doctors report. Nobody will be allowed to expire for this reason.
  • Variations are being held pending at this time, unless critical for individual circumstances such as occupation etc.
  • Customers will experience delays in receiving their new licenses for issues such as change of address, and replacements etc.

Click here to visit Cambridgeshire constabulary’s website

Cleveland police has suspended applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates. Any new paper applications will be returned to the applicant with a covering letter. Any applicants applying online will receive a letter asking if an immediate refund is required or the application be held on file.

All renewal enquiries will be done via telephone consultation. Any that cannot be resolved due to GP concerns or other issues will receive an extension.

Simple variations will be processed, however, this may not be possible for those with complex issues where land may need to be verified.

Most staff are working remotely but it is hoped that at least one member of staff will attend the office during hours 07.30 to 15.30 to issue certificates and answer any queries.

Derbyshire constabulary is ceasing home visits relating to firearm licensing enquiries. 

In order to ensure that existing certificate holders are not left in illegal possession due to their certificates expiring, Derbyshire constabulary will risk assess renewal applications.  

Telephone renewals will be carried out for low/medium risk certificate holders.  

Those applications deemed to carry a higher risk will be assessed on a case by case basis.  

Where interviews are deemed necessary, they will be conducted in a managed environment (not at the applicant’s home address) or via Skype style interview. 

With immediate effect, applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates will not be processed. Staff cannot visit applicants and therefore the focus will be on keeping people already holding firearms in legal possession. 

Variations for firearm certificates will not be processed. It is hoped that holders will understand and not submit applications for variations at this time. There are staff that are already self-isolating which is impacting on the service. 

Derbyshire constabulary is appealing to people not to apply for grants or variations at this time. 

Certificate holders awaiting renewal are asked not to phone the firearms department unless absolutely necessary as this ties up staff and will prevent them from processing renewals. 

The following statement has been issued by Durham constabulary:

As a result of the unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19, processes have been amended to deal with the evolving situation, however delays are to be expected.

Please note the following changes with immediate effect, until further notice:

  • Telephone lines are only open between 9am-11am Monday-Friday.
  • No front counter service will be provided by Firearms Licensing at Unit 1, Whitehouse Industrial Park, Taynor Way, Peterlee SR8 2RT.
  • All correspondence including renewal applications are to be sent electronically, via email to: Firearmslicensing@durham.pnn.police.uk.
  • Payment for renewal applications must be made electronically, therefore only card payments over the telephone will be accepted. You will be contacted by the department in due course to take the payment.
  • Emails will be monitored regularly but response time cannot be guaranteed, but we will endeavour to respond as soon as possible
  • No timescales can be provided for all enquiry types.  

Firearms licensing appreciate these changes may be inconvenient for many but would very much appreciate your efforts to comply with these changes. Firearms licensing would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and co-operation throughout this process

In addition the following advice has been published:

  • Shooting vermin alone for the purpose of protecting crops and livestock will be permitted.
  • Shooting for pleasure and/or in groups of two or more will not [be permitted].

For more information click here. 

BASC has received the following update from Essex Police:

Due to the recent announcement from the Prime Minister, the following actions will now be in force regarding firearms licensing for the county of Essex.

No new grants, non-essential variations or applications will be accepted.

  • Those new grants already received have been contacted and the situation explained to them.
  • They have been given the option of a refund or for us to hold their application.

GP proformas are still required for renewals and any received already for grants returned will be honoured when restrictions are lifted, if they apply within a reasonable time.

Renewals will be processed through Essex police’s firearms, shot gun and explosive licensing HQ and then passed to the individuals firearms enquiry officer (FEO) who will conduct an interview over the phone.

If the renewal does not have their GP proforma with their application, we will still process the enquiry. If after telephone interview we still have not received the GP proforma, a temporary certificate will be issued for one year to allow the surgeries to process their applications.

These are calculated risks that we are taking to ensure not only the safety of the shooting community but their family and also our staff and their families.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic Gloucestershire constabulary firearms licensing department is taking steps to ensure a continuation of service for existing certificate holders.  

The move is set to ensure that existing certificates are renewed in time and that certificate holders are not left in illegal possession. 

In order to achieve this they have taken the decision to temporarily suspend the acceptance of all new grant applications for both firearm and shotgun certificates. The suspension has been extended to cover applications for variation of firearm certificates. Any received will be returned. 

Gloucestershire police state that their decision is unprecedented and they hope that it will only be for a very limited period until normal service is resumed. 

The firearms and explosives licensing manager for Greater Manchester police has issued the following statement:

“As you may be aware, the current coronavirus situation is and will continue to have a major impact on policing including firearms licensing units across the country. The situation is being continually assessed and discussions are ongoing at regional and national levels in relation to firearms licensing.

We have a duty of care to our staff, service users and the general public. With that in mind, considering current government guidance in relation to social distancing and in order to maintain resilience, enquiry officers have ceased routinely visiting certificate holders for renewal applications until further notice. As a result, we are unable to process grant applications.

Our main priority at this time is to focus on public safety and to ensure certificate holders remain in legal possession.

As we move forward, with the potential reduction in staff, we may find ourselves in a position where we must focus on critical tasks and remove the non-essential. This may result in being unable to process variations for instance.

We will try our best to keep you all updated with developments over the next few months.

Any help from yourselves to assist in terms of communication to the shooting community is greatly appreciated, particularly around the following:

  • Applicants to delay sending in grant applications
  • Renewal applications to be made online (avoiding paper applications if possible) and to be made as soon as possible. Renewal reminder letters are currently being sent out five months prior to expiry
  • Any necessary contact to the unit, to be made using the online contact form

I appreciate your understanding and support and wish you all well in these challenging circumstances.”

The firearms licensing manager for the combined licensing department for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire has provided the following update:

The firearms licensing department is dealing with what they consider to be critical risk work only at the moment. They are not performing any home visits so;

  • New grant applications are being be put on hold until further notice – the department is not prepared to issue a grant without a home visit.
  • Renewals – these are being treated as a priority. The vast majority of interviews are performed on the telephone. If it is felt that a visit is required the individual will be issued with an extension of their current certificate until such time as a visit can be conducted.
  • Anyone experiencing delays due to not being able to obtain a GP report will be given an automatic extension of eight weeks (currently) and informed as such. There has been no cause to do this as yet. The department may review that extension period as we go along to a longer time, but the full renewal will not be completed until we have the doctors report. Nobody will be allowed to expire for this reason.
  • Variations are being held pending at this time, unless critical for individual circumstances such as occupation etc.
  • Customers will experience delays in receiving their new licenses for issues such as change of address, and replacements etc.

Click here to visit Hertfordshire Constabulary’s website. 

All work relating to applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates has been put on hold. Anyone who has already submitted an application will experience a delay.

Members of the firearm enquiry officer team are working remotely. They will be undertaking only essential home visits.

Renewal applications are being prioritised. Everything will be done to ensure that certificate holders remain in lawful possession. However, in some cases certificate holders may be required to lodge their guns.

Click here to visit Humberside police’s website.

The following statement has been issued by Kent police.

In order to protect our certificate holders, the wider public and our Kent police colleagues in line with the current public health advice, it will be necessary to amend some procedures so that we can continue to deliver the best service possible during these unprecedented times. 

They include, suspension of all home visits and suspension of all grant applications so that we can focus on renewals and concentrate our resources on keeping those in possession of firearms lawful and safe.

We are continuing the requirement for GP letters as we believe this is an important factor in keeping the public safe, albeit we recognise there may be a delay in obtaining these and are taking a pragmatic view, building in a process that will be flexible.

There may be some delays and contact with the department is restricted because of the circumstances. However we are continuing to work with public safety upmost in our mind.

The firearms licensing page on the Kent police website will carry the most up to date information.

Thank you for your support to this department

Click here for more information on Kent Police. 

As a result of the current coronavirus situation, the head of firearms licensing (after consultation with the senior management team) has made the decision to suspend all non-urgent applications to the firearms licensing department for the foreseeable future.

Consequently Lancashire constabulary will not be processing any new grant applications, or variations to any certificates until further notice.

Any such applications received by the firearms licensing department will be returned to the applicant with a short letter advising them to monitor our page on the website, before re-submitting their application.

Leicestershire police is ceasing home visits relating to firearms licensing enquiries.

In order to ensure that existing certificate holders are not left in illegal possession due to their certificates expiring, Leicestershire police will risk assess renewal applications.

Telephone renewals will be carried out for low/medium risk certificate holders.

Those applications deemed to carry a higher risk will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Where interviews are deemed necessary, they will be conducted in a managed environment (not at the applicant’s home address) or via skype style interview.

With immediate effect applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates will not be processed. Staff cannot visit applicants and therefore the focus will be on keeping people already holding firearms in legal possession.

Variations for firearm certificates will not be processed. It is hoped that holders will understand and not submit applications for variations at this time. There are staff that are already self-isolating which is impacting on the service.

Leicestershire police is appealing to people not to apply for grants or variations at this time.

Certificate holders awaiting renewal are asked not to phone the firearms department unless absolutely necessary as this ties up staff and will prevent them from processing renewals.

Lincolnshire police is currently dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect the public and its staff in the best possible way.

Due to the increased risk of spreading the virus between certificate holders, firearms enquiry officers will now be completing renewals over the phone, they will not visit the home address.

In order to mitigate any further risk to our certificate holders, our focus will be ensuring they are in lawful possession and renewed before their expiry date.

As a result of the above, we will no longer be accepting NEW grant applications. Any grant applications submitted will be withdrawn.

This will be continually reviewed and we hope it will only be a short term measure.

Change of addresses and transfer in applications will also be affected. We shall update your records as soon as you notify us, however we will be unable to visit and and thus not able to issue a new certificate.

Good reason for FACs: In such circumstances as COVID-19, we understand that as a shooter, you may not be attending your local club or conducting vermin control for the foreseeable future, we therefore will not be questioning anyone’s good reason if you are self-isolating due to the virus.

If you have any concerns about your certificate, please email fal@lincs.pnn.police.uk . This email address is monitored and your questions will be answered quicker than if you ring the department.

The Metropolitan police service is currently finding itself operating in very difficult and rapidly changing environment as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. The point has now been reached where firearms licensing staff will be required to assist with the policing response across the capital.

This does not mean that firearms licensing business will stop. However, it does mean that business will be maintained by minimal staffing levels with immediate effect. There may be service disruptions which occur at short notice. Difficult decisions have had to be made in order to maintain our core business during coming weeks and months.

Renewals of all certification will take place via remote assessment via video, on the most widely available electronic mediums, and telephones calls. Every measure will be taken to avoid certificate holders going in to unlawful possession but there may be some occasions where this is unavoidable. Wherever possible we will aim to avoid the issue of temporary permits.

All new grant applications have been placed on hold. It is not intended at this time to return the paperwork associated with new grants but it will be returned on request.

Applications for variations are now in the process of being returned with an explanatory note.

The key messages from the Metropolitan police are;

  • They remain committed to providing a service and firearms licensing remains a priority.
  • That they are suffering disruption to normal service due to these extraordinary circumstances.
  • Only contact them when absolutely necessary and please utilise the internet based options to do so. (Email – FETLondonAll@met.police.uk or general enquiry form found here).
  • During the next six months, existing certificate holders should apply early (12 – 16 weeks) in order to secure the statutory extension to certificates to give them the best possible opportunity to renew within time.
  • If anyone finds themselves requiring renewal at timescales shorter than described above, they should make their renewal application electronically and follow this with an electronic contact to the FET office. A process is in place to offer assistance in these circumstances.
  • The Metropolitan police will be sympathetic to issues that shooters may experience in having opportunity to access ranges and shoots during these difficult times. This will be taken into consideration when considering evidence of continuing “good reason”.
  • The Metropolitan police is mindful of the pressure felt across the NHS and will work together with shooters and medical practitioners to ensure a pragmatic approach is taken to addressing any medical issues raised.

Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19Merseyside police has taken the decision to temporarily suspend any non-urgent work, related to firearms licensing.

In consequence they are unable to accept any grant applications for firearm or shotgun certificates. Applications for variation of firearm certificates are unable to be accepted at this time.

The position will be reviewed as new information comes to light. Any significant developments will be posted on the Merseyside police website.

Merseyside police will prioritise applications for renewal of certificates to ensure that certificate holders remain in legal possession of their firearms.

Home visits will not be conducted. Each application will be risk assessed and if appropriate the applicant will be renewed following interview via telephone.  A security visit will be conducted when the situation stabilises.

Norfolk constabulary has stopped all non-essential home visits whilst the force considers the situation. This includes the firearms licensing department.

Consideration is being given to suspending all work on grant applications except in circumstances where the applicant requires a certificate for essential reasons.

It is planned that a postal renewal system will be implemented, supported by telephone interviews.

Follow-up enquiries requiring a home visit will be deferred to a later date.

Northamptonshire police is ceasing home visits relating to firearms licensing enquiries.

In order to ensure that existing certificate holders are not left in illegal possession due to their certificates expiring, Northamptonshire police will risk assess renewal applications.

Telephone renewals will be carried out for low/medium risk certificate holders.

Those applications deemed to carry a higher risk will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Where interviews are deemed necessary, they will be conducted in a managed environment (not at the applicant’s home address) or via Skype style interview.

With immediate effect applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates will not be processed. Staff cannot visit applicants and therefore the focus will be on keeping people already holding firearms in legal possession.

Variations for firearm certificates will not be processed. It is hoped that holders will understand and not submit applications for variations at this time. There are staff that are already self-isolating which is impacting on the service.

Northamptonshire police is appealing to people not to apply for grants or variations at this time.

Certificate holders awaiting renewal are asked not to phone the firearms department unless absolutely necessary as this ties up staff and will prevent them from processing renewals.

North Yorkshire police has issued the following update:

Following recent government advice North Yorkshire police is restricting visits to only those deemed absolutely necessary. Therefore, we will not be processing any new grants for shotguns and firearms for the next 30 days (from 25 March) at which point the situation will be reviewed. 

This is to allow us to carry out critical functions in the department, deal with the high number of renewals we are experiencing and most importantly prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Due to the limited number of staff we have in the office we will be unable to deal with enquiries in person and calls may go unanswered.

It would be really helpful if any enquiries could be sent instead to firearmslicensing@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk

We have received a number of questions about whether to shoot as the lambing season is in full swing. I would consider this as part of your work and therefore following the current government advice this is permitted. I would consider that any other shooting that is not part of your business and is not essential, is not carried out until the situation has been reviewed.

I hope you understand the reasons why these decisions have been made and believe me when I say they have not been taken lightly.

For my part I apologise for the disappointment this will cause our current and prospective certificate holders.

I would like to thank you in advance for your understanding during this difficult time.

Further updates will be communicated, I would ask everyone to follow the advice issued by the government which would supersede this advice.

T/Insp Andrew Palmer, firearms licensing

For more information visit https://northyorkshire.police.uk/what-we-do/licensing/firearms-licensing/

Nottinghamshire police is ceasing home visits relating to firearms licensing enquiries.

In order to ensure that existing certificate holders are not left in illegal possession due to their certificates expiring, Nottinghamshire police will risk assess renewal applications.

Telephone renewals will be carried out for low/medium risk certificate holders.

Those applications deemed to carry a higher risk will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Where interviews are deemed necessary, they will be conducted in a managed environment (not at the applicant’s home address) or via Skype style interview.

With immediate effect applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates will not be processed. Staff cannot visit applicants and therefore the focus will be on keeping people already holding firearms in legal possession.

Variations for firearm certificates will not be processed. It is hoped that holders will understand and not submit applications for variations at this time. There are staff that are already self-isolating which is impacting on the service.

Nottinghamshire police is appealing to people not to apply for grants or variations at this time.

Certificate holders awaiting renewal are asked not to phone the firearms department unless absolutely necessary as this ties up staff and will prevent them from processing renewals.

Currently, FEOs are risk assessing the need to visit applicants on renewal. Where it is deemed appropriate, renewal enquiries are being conducted via telephone. Applicants benefiting from telephone renewals will receive a follow-up visit in six months’ time.

Staff are currently producing as many certificates for renewal applications as possible to avoid anyone being left in illegal possession. South Yorkshire police do not foresee this being a likelihood as they extend all certificates for renewal by eight weeks at the point the application is received regardless of how close to renewal it is submitted. A buffer period is already in place for most applicants. 

Applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates have been suspended and will not be progressed at this time. All applicants who are affected are being contacted by letter to inform them of this situation and they are given the opportunity to withdraw and receive a refund.

The firearms licensing department is still functioning as normal at the moment. There is a business continuity plan that will allow them to continue producing certificates etc. if the team has to self-isolate.

Staffordshire Police has suspended applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates.

Applicants are being contacted and asked whether they want their application held on file or if they would prefer an immediate refund, re-applying at a later date.

The firearms licensing unit is prioritising work relating to the renewal of existing certificates. All applications will be dealt with using a risk assessed postal renewal system. Those requiring additional enquiries will be subject to telephone interview.

Applications for variation of firearm certificates will be processed, again utilising telephone interviews where necessary.

Suffolk constabulary has stopped all non-essential home visits whilst the force considers the situation. This includes the firearms licensing department.

Consideration is being given to suspending all work on grant applications except in circumstances where the applicant requires a certificate for essential reasons.

It is planned that a postal renewal system will be implemented, supported by telephone interviews.

Follow-up enquiries requiring a home visit will be deferred to a later date.

In drawing up contingency plans for the coronavirus outbreak, Thames Valley police acknowledge that planning has been difficult due to the rapidly changing circumstances.

However, as a consequence of the latest government advice, the following plan has been put into place.

In order to minimise the risk of cross contamination, firearms licensing staff will not be conducting any home and/or site visits until further notice. This means that applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates will not be processed. Applicants are asked to delay sending in any grant applications until further notice.

The department’s focus will be on public safety and processing renewal applications to ensure that certificate holders do not fall into unlawful possession.

Thames Valley police will be sending out a letter to all certificate holders informing them of this change. This will be done in stages, prioritising those that are renewing this year. In all 35,000 letters will be issued.

Certificate holders are encouraged to apply for their renewals online utilising the new single online home system. It is requested that any correspondence is sent via email.

Applicants are advised to start the renewal process as soon as they receive their reminder renewal letter. This is sent out four months in advance of the expiry date.

Advice from the Local Medical Committee is for applicants to not contact their local GP to complete the pro forma but to utilise the services of a private GP company or BASC who provide a GP members service.

Warwickshire police has issued the following statement:

Following the recent announcement by the Prime Minister introducing restriction of movement for all but essential purposes Warwickshire police has decided to stop all home visits with immediate effect.

This means that no new firearm or shotgun certificates will be granted until further notice. That being said work such as background checks will continue on existing applications so that files are ready for firearm enquiry officers to complete once home visits can be undertaken.

Work on renewal applications will be prioritised and interviews will be conducted as often as possible via telephone.

Currently the firearms licensing department is staffed Monday to Friday 08:00 – 16:00. However, they will not accept visitors at this time.

West Midlands police has suspended applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates.

Applicants are being contacted and asked whether they want their application held on file or if they would prefer an immediate refund, re-applying at a later date.

The firearms licensing unit is prioritising work relating to the renewal of existing certificates. All applications will be dealt with using a risk assessed postal renewal system. Those requiring additional enquiries will be subject to telephone interview.

Applications for variation of firearm certificates will be processed, again utilising telephone interviews where necessary.

West Yorkshire police has ceased all firearms enquiry officer visits from 16 March 2020 onwards. As a result this force will not be accepting applications for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates.

Applications for certificate renewals will continue to be processed.  Interviews will be conducted via telephone with deferred visits being undertaken if required.

Applicants who do not submit their applications at least eight weeks prior to expiry will not qualify for the automatic eight week extension of certificates. Therefore they will be required to lodge their guns.

Northern Ireland

Assistant chief constable Alan Todd has issued the following statement on behalf of Police Service of Northern Ireland:

“PSNI’s firearms and explosives branch is advising the firearms community of changes to service due to the unprecedented challenges presented by Covid-19.

We will prioritise re-grant applications.

All other applications, however, such as initial applications, variations including one-on-one-offs, will not be processed at this time.

The changes are effective immediately, from Wednesday 25 March.

While these changes are necessary, members of the public can be assured we will continue to prioritise issues of personal protection to ensure we keep people safe.

It is also necessary to suspend our telephone services, including the freephone help desk facility and our general enquiries phone desk from today until further notice.

If you have an urgent enquiry in regards to a re-grant application please email firearms@psni.pnn.police.uk

The email facility will be monitored during normal business hours (Monday – Friday) and our staff will endeavour to deal with your enquiry as soon as possible.

We will keep these changes under continual review, and keep our applicants and stakeholders informed of developments across our social media sites and our firearms and explosives website.

We thank the public for their understanding during this time.”

Scotland

The following joint statement has been issued by BASC, the Gun Trade Association, the Scottish Association for Country Sports, the Scottish Countryside Alliance, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Scottish Target Shooting:

“Police Scotland, like all police services in the United Kingdom, are facing unprecedented demands at a time of national crisis in dealing with the effects of the Covid–19 pandemic.

We, the principal membership shooting organisations of the Scottish Firearms Licensing Practitioners Group, recognise the difficulties faced by Police Scotland and their staff and fully understand that it cannot be business as usual given the unique circumstances we are all facing.  We do not live in normal times.

Police Scotland have made us aware of the interim arrangements that will be operating as they seek to deal with the demands of an emergency service of the current situation, hampered by diminishing resources as staff either fall ill or self-isolate.

Police Scotland are suspending the processing of most applications for grants of either firearm, shotgun or air weapon certificates and applications for variations or visitor permits.  We are aware that at this time applications for visitor permits have reduced dramatically in view of travel restrictions and given the current operating restrictions in non-essential retail premises, it is likely that demand for variations will also be small so the impact of this on these services should be minimal.

The processing of certificate renewals will still take place and those seeking to renew will be contacted by Police Scotland in due course.  Applications will be taken in context of applicant activity prior to this pandemic and will not be viewed negatively due to the current social restrictions in place.  In view of the latest Government messaging for the management of Covid-19, renewals will take place remotely, without the need for home visits. 

Police Scotland are acutely aware of the demands on General Practitioners at this time and will adopt a pragmatic approach with respect to the requirement for General Practitioner involvement in firearms licensing.  Police Scotland are keen to reinforce that as each case will be judged on its merits it is unable to provide definitive guidance for every scenario.  This is understandable.

If an application is to grant or renew a certificate for employment purposes (e.g. gamekeeping, professional pest control or working in the oil industry) Police Scotland have said that they will do their utmost to process these applications as best they can, and we support this prioritisation.

Police Scotland have also taken the decision to return centralised decision making back to the processing centres during this time to allow the policing divisions to deal with their pressing demands.  This will allow for decisions to be made quickly and consistently and will hopefully ensure Police Scotland do not need to rely on the eight-week extension or the issue of temporary Section 7 permits currently available to them, which operationally can cause problems.

To be clear, we collectively understand that these are critical times for the country.  It is not business as usual and this must be fully understood.  We do hope that, when the country returns to a more even keel, the commercial, personal and sporting needs of Scottish communities are recognised and that visitor permits and variations are dealt with quickly to allow businesses and the shooting communities to pick themselves up and move forwards to enjoy the wider rewards that an active target shooting, game shooting and deer stalking community provides.

During these uncertain times, we understand that pressures can increase in respect of employment concerns and also anxiety in relation to health.  The members of the Scottish Firearms Licensing Practitioners Group, including Police Scotland and Scottish Government, have been working on a leaflet explaining why it’s important to say if you’re not okay, recognising the challenges of poor mental health and provide some advice about what help is available to certificate holders (as well as their friends and families) should they have concerns.  It also explains the police position in respect of such matters.  

Due to the current crisis, it has been decided to publish this material now, ahead of formal publication, to get this key message out that support is available.  It is important for the whole shooting community, including friends and families, to make themselves aware of this advice and where they can turn to for support.  This advice will be published on the respective websites.

These are unprecedented times and key workers are being asked to perform important roles while no doubt worrying about the future, the welfare of their families, loved ones and themselves.  We ask the shooting community to be pragmatic and understanding. Please respect the latest Government and medical messaging and limit contact with the firearms licensing departments unless it is a matter of urgency.

By working as one Scottish shooting community, we can limit the impact this virus can have to ensure life can return to normal as soon as possible.  

We thank you for your support.”

Wales

Dyfed-Powys police has issued the following update:

Please note changes to firearms licensing process with immediate effect and until further notice:

In consequence of the exceptional challenges posed by the Coronavirus outbreak, all contact with the firearms licensing department will be by email only.

It is requested that contact is restricted to urgent queries only. The email address is Firearmslicensing2@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk

Additionally and in line with Government and health service advice in order to maintain social distancing, home visits will cease until further notice unless considered necessary in exceptional cases.

  • No new grant applications will be considered.
  • No new variation applications will be considered.

Any new grant or variation application received will be returned to the applicant.

No front counter service will be provided by firearms licensing staff at police headquarters Llangunnor Carmarthen.

It is fully recognised that these changes may be inconvenient, however they are absolutely necessary in the interest of staff and public health.

Firearms licensing would like to thank you for your understanding and co-operation during these unprecedented times.

Gwent Police is currently continuing to do home visits, but this will be subject to continuous review.

The firearms licensing department will endeavour to deal with renewals in a timely manner. However, they have made it clear that they were already struggling with volumes prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gwent police is looking to utilise staff from elsewhere within the organisation that can assist Firearms Licensing by undertaking relevant background checks.

Temporary extensions to existing certificates will be issued to ensure the continued legal possession of guns.

Individual applying for the grant of firearm and shotgun certificates are being advised to put their application on hold or alternatively request a refund.

North Wales police has temporarily suspended its mandatory GP verification policy for firearms licensing.

The force has informed BASC that the reason it has decided to do this is “to avoid placing any additional pressure on frontline medical practitioners and their teams due to the COVID 19 emergency”. 

North Wales police has also issued the following statement:

The firearms and explosives licensing team are currently working hard to process all existing casework, whilst responding to the challenges posed by the COVID 19 outbreak. At this moment we have stopped all home visits, unless in exceptional circumstances, in order to assist with social distancing.

We will look to use other methods to get in touch with you regarding your firearms. To assist at this time we would be grateful if you could avoid emailing or telephoning the unless your query is of an urgent nature.

We do anticipate that processing existing grants, renewals or variations will take longer than normal below are some FAQs and answers that may avoid the need to contact us.

We would ask that anyone considering submitting a new grant or variation request to avoid doing so unless absolutely essential as there is likely to be a significant delay in processing these requests.

Please keep checking our webpages for further updates. 

FAQs

Q: I have submitted a renewal/grant/variation some weeks ago and haven’t heard anything. What should I do?”

A: Unless your certificate (s) shows that you have expired please wait until we contact you.

Q: My certificate has expired. What should I do?

A: Please contact us, ideally by email so that we can discuss your individual circumstances. If you have forgotten to renew, and are in possession of guns then you should, as a matter of urgency arrange for them to be transferred to another certificate holder or dealer, and notify us in writing or via email of where and who the guns have been transferred to

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