Licensing: facts you should know
Sporting Gun|October 2021
With the prospect of a full shooting season ahead this autumn, many readers will be thinking about acquiring their first shotgun certificate. David Frost, Sporting Gun’s legal expert, offers some thoughts and advice on what to expect when you apply
David Frost

The recent shootings in Plymouth have again highlighted issues around the granting of a shotgun certificate. Such incidents are mercifully rare and what legislative consequences come from this latest one remain to be seen. In the meantime, the vast majority of law-abiding citizens who shoot or who want to shoot will have to contend with the process to obtain a certificate as things stand.

With around 40 pieces of legislation governing the ownership and use of guns, obtaining a shotgun certificate (SGC) is not as simple as it may seem. The rules for Northern Ireland are even more complicated and not for this article.

If you do not already belong to one of the major shooting organisations, I suggest you join before applying for an SGC. BASC and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) in particular have firearms licensing specialists who can advise members who run into problems with their SGC applications, which is not uncommon.

Lottery

Sadly, firearms licensing is a postcode lottery. There are 43 police forces in England and Wales and one in Scotland responsible for administering the law. Some do it fairly and efficiently and others are a little short of appalling. According to figures published by BASC for 2020, you would wait an average of 164 calendar days to get your certificate in Greater Manchester but only 18 in Bedfordshire and 19 in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. In Durham, where the senior police officer responsible for advising the Home Office on licensing matters resides, it takes 146 days. What sort of example does that set? Inadequate training and the general sloth associated with a government monopoly are the principal culprits but failure on the part of shooters to complain about poor service is a significant factor. Don’t put up with lousy service.

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