The NI Assembly Committee for Justice has rejected proposals to significantly increase firearms licensing fees in Northern Ireland. The Department of Justice (DoJ) had proposed increases which would have seen fees for an individual firearm certificate rise from £50 to £121. The cost of a firearms dealer’s certificate would have risen from £150 to £528. Certificates must be renewed every five years.
Speaking after the Committee for Justice meeting at Stormont, BASC NI director Tommy Mayne said: “BASC NI welcomes the Committee’s decision and the fact that the Department for Justice will now have to reconsider their proposals to substantially increase licensing fees. It was very clear during the meeting that members of the Committee were not convinced that the proposed increases are justified. BASC’s position has always been that there should be no increase in fees without a full, independent and transparent review of the necessary processes within firearms licensing. The Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) has a long way to go to provide a fair and efficient service. BASC commends the Committee for Justice for its pragmatic approach in dealing with what is a very important issue for lawful firearms users and firearms dealers in Northern Ireland.”
Committee members also voiced concern over the length of time taken by the PSNI to process some applications and the fact that a ten-year licence was not being considered. Members also highlighted a serious breakdown in relationships between the PSNI’s Firearms and Explosives Branch and stakeholders in the shooting and gun trade organisations, saying the issue must be addressed. The PSNI has failed to respond to several invitations to discuss licensing issues with elected representatives in recent months.
The Committee is expected to hear more from interest groups and the department when the Assembly reconvenes in September.
BASC NI will continue to work with the Gun Trade Guild NI, the NI Firearms Dealers’ Association and other organisations to ensure that lawful firearms users receive an acceptable level of service before fees are increased.