The UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), has warned that a significant drop in new entrants to the sport as a result of Covid-19 restrictions could impact the grassroots of shooting.
The warning comes on the back of the publication of Home Office statistics in England and Wales which show a significant decrease in new applications for firearms licences.
Covid-19 restrictions meant police forces only dealt with certain certificate grants, as home visits – a prerequisite to gaining a certificate – became non-essential.
The Home Office statistics show that new applications for firearm certificates and shotgun certificates were down 37% and 42%, respectively between April 2020 and March 2021, equating to a total decrease of over 10,800 certificate holders compared to the previous year.
As of March 2021, there were 548,521 shotgun certificates on issue, the lowest number since statistics were first recorded in their current form in 2009.
Martin Parker, BASC’s head of firearms, said: “The Home Office statistics continue to highlight shooting’s popularity, but we are nothing without new entrants to the sport.
“Covid-19 restrictions over the past 18 months have both diminished shooting opportunities and hampered the work of firearms licensing departments.
“BASC accepts that various restrictions made normal licensing procedures hard, such as home visits for new applicants, however, with the restrictions easing it is now essential that licensing departments get back to full capacity.
“We will not know what long-term damage Covid-19 will have on the numbers of licence holders for a couple of years but BASC is working harder than ever to push shooting into new audiences and convince those unable to apply for grants last year to come forward now.”
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