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BASC Investigation Finds Shocking Inconsistencies in Firearms Licensing System

BASC Investigation Finds Shocking Inconsistencies in Firearms Licensing System


The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has just released the findings of its investigation into the performance of firearms licensing departments (FLDs) in England and Wales, and it makes for an interesting read. BASC found "considerable differences" between the 42 separate firearms licensing departments investigated, concluding major failings to the shooting community.

These failings could have a serious impact on gun owners and registered firearms dealers (RFDs) in the UK, who are already facing increased regulation and bureaucracy. This article will explore the findings found in 'A review of firearms licensing departments in England and Wales (2022)' and what this could potentially mean for firearms owners.


Brief Overview of BASC's Investigation into FLDs

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) is the UK's largest shooting organisation, representing the interests of over 145,000 members. In light of recent events, BASC decided to investigate how well FLDs were working in terms of efficiency and effectiveness in order to review and identify best practices within these teams. 

The investigation looked at how quickly FLDs were processing firearms applications, analysing their firearms licensing practices and costs involved. Cross-referencing information from the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS), Police Scotland and responses from 34 out of the 42 forces investigated, BASC have made conclusions and recommendations for the future.


Findings from BASC's Investigation

Key findings of 'A review of firearms licensing departments in England and Wales (2022)' are as follows:

  • Of the 34 forces, 13 managed turnaround times for renewals and grants in between 38.5 and 70 days (54 days average). These quickest forces being Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Cleveland, Cheshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Gwent, Kent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Thames Valley Police (TVP) and Warwickshire.


  • These 13 forces also managed to process applications and renewals by an average of 20%. However, other forces such as Cumbria, Dorset and Northumbria, processed less than 11% of their applications and renewals. In comparison, Police Scotland issued 99.35% of firearm and shotgun certificate renewals prior to their expiry. 


  • BASC found the cost to process each certificate was between £87.24 and £521.99. The average cost was £181.12, however BASC described this figure as "somewhat meaningless" given variation in figures.


  • Per staff member, the number of certificates processed ranged massively from 76.3 to 583. Again, a vast inconsistency between FLDs.


  • BASC stated that from the 34 forces that did respond, some of the data submitted was "clearly incorrect", particularly relating to FLD budgets.


Conclusions from BASC's Investigation

BASC have concluded that considerable inconsistencies between FLDs "cannot be justified" and have called for a major overhaul of firearm licensing departments across England and Wales. Specifically compared to Police Scotland’s unified system, found to be running without delays, processing costing variation or staffing levels inconsistencies.

BASC have stated the seven most consistent forces in terms of costs, staffing per certificate processed and turnaround times – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Cleveland, Essex, Thames Valley and Warwickshire – all used online processing, which "almost certainly" helps them achieve their efficient service. 

Suggestions made in the review include having chief constables and PCCs examine these seven forces, as well as Police Scotland, to put plans in to emulate them across the whole of the UK. With a recommendation of a complete reform of the current system with a goal to achieving "more consistent, efficient and effective systems in all forces".


Final Thoughts

The findings of BASC's investigation, whilst perhaps not surprising to many firearms owners, are shocking to read. The fact that there is such a discrepancy in how quickly and efficiently different FLDs can process applications points to a need for serious reform within the system.

It is reassuring to see that some forces are already ahead of the game in terms of utilising online systems to increase efficiency. This also ties into the recent call to replace the National Firearms Licensing Management System by the Home Office, in which a more centralised online gun register may be created.

Whilst licensing systems across England and Wales may be affecting number of licenses granted, the buying and selling of firearms is still booming across the country. With the most advertisements on any firearms marketplace in the UK, Gunstar is the #1 place to buy and sell your guns.

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