Firearms dealers from across Northern Ireland discussed proposals to significantly increase firearms licensing fees in the Province at a meeting organised by BASC NI.
A public consultation on plans to increase fees and make a number of other amendments to the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 was launched in late June by the NI Department of Justice.
The consultation document proposes a significant increase in the cost of a firearm certificate from £50 to £120. The consultation also proposes a very substantial increase in the cost of a firearms dealer’s certificate which would increase from £150 to £697.
BASC NI, working in partnership with Countryside Alliance Ireland, the Gun Trade Guild NI and the Northern Ireland Firearms Dealers’ Association, organised the firearms dealers’ evening which was held on Tuesday (18th September 2012) in Lisburn.
The event, which was chaired by BASC NI director Tommy Mayne, was well attended by the province’s main firearms dealers and the chairman of the Ulster Farmers’ Union legislation committee Jason Rankin. A number of MLAs including Edwin Poots (health minister), Jonathon Craig (NI Policing Board), Paul Givan (chairman of the NI Justice Committee) and Tom Elliott (member of the Justice Committee) were also in attendance. A Department of Justice official was also present, representing the Justice Minister David Ford who was unable to attend due to a prior engagement.
BASC NI Director Tommy Mayne said: “The proposed firearms licensing fees increases are very much a hot topic and the meeting provided an excellent opportunity for firearms dealers and their representative organisations to voice their concerns to MLAs including members of the NI Justice Committee. It is clear that our concerns have been taken into account however there is still much work to be done and I would urge both dealers and firearm certificate holders to lobby their local MLAs to voice their opposition to the proposed increases which are very substantial. Other proposals such as the age reduction for young shooters and the banded system, if implemented, will be of significant benefit to both firearms dealers and the wider shooting community and we very much look forward to working in partnership with the Justice Minister, his department and other key stakeholders as the process moves forward.”
Paul Givan MLA said: "The proposals contained in the consultation document will be subjected to close scrutiny by the Justice Committee as there is clearly considerable concern, regarding plans to increase the cost of both the individual certificate and the firearms dealers certificate. It is important that everyone recognises the contribution that this industry makes to the Northern Ireland economy and whilst regulation is necessary it must be proportionate and every effort should be made by Government to facilitate and develop the industry. I commend BASC for organising and chairing the evening which has provided me and other Justice Committee members with a more in depth insight into the concerns of both firearms dealers and the shooting organisations."
Tom Elliott MLA added: “It cannot be demonstrated in the present harsh economic times how such an increase can be justified. Would the service improve with such high increase or will we continue to get a second rate service to which we are charged exorbitant fees? There is a general feeling that the fees suggested is an attempt to reduce the number of legal gun owners and dealers in Northern Ireland by making the fees unaffordable. The fees as set out would have a major negative effect on the number of firearms dealers in Northern Ireland and also would discourage farmers from obtaining a firearms certificate to control vermin & pests on their farms. I shall ensure that any necessary firearms fees are fair and can be justified.”
The chairman of the Ulster Farmers’ Union legislation committee, Jason Rankin, said: “I would like to thank BASC for organising and chairing what was a very productive meeting. It provided an excellent opportunity to highlight UFU’s opposition to the proposed increases in firearms licensing fees. Such substantial increases would undoubtedly impact on the farming community and those members of the Justice Committee that were present have clearly taken our concerns on board.”
More than 2,700 people signed a joint petition launched in early July by the shooting and gun trade organisations. The petition opposes the increase in fees and supports a reduction in age limits to allow young people to be taught to shoot under supervision. The joint petition will be submitted to the Department of Justice along with BASC’s consultation response.
The consultation closed on 20th September.
The photograph shows: (left to right) Tom Elliott MLA, Jason Rankin (chairman of the Ulster Farmers’ Union legislation committee), Vaughan Harkness (secretary of the Northern Ireland Firearms Dealers Association), Robert Kidd (head of firearms and explosives licensing at the Department of Justice), Tommy Mayne (BASC NI director), Paul Givan MLA (chairman of the NI Justice Committee ), Lyall Plant (chief executive, Countryside Alliance Ireland), Laura Morrison (BASC NI), David Robinson (chairman of the Gun Trade Guild N.I.) and Edwin Poots MLA (NI Health Minister).