Sporting shooters have been frustrated and worried by delays in processing firearms licence requests.
Recorded data shows that Hampshire Police was working to process a 13,000-licence backlog in 2012. This translates to, on average, a five-month delay for firearms applications being processed by the force. In comparison to other Police forces, Thames Valley Police managed to average a 25-day turnaround, while Surrey and Wiltshire took slightly longer with 30 and 35 days respectively.
These lengthy delays in renewing licences left many gun owners without their guns, instead having to store them with registered firearms dealers until they finally received their new licence.
In some cases, Sporting Rifle understands, shooters were told to simply keep their guns, even though by the letter of the law this is an absolute offence with a penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
BASC senior firearms officer Mike Eveleigh said: “It’s something that horrified us. It’s very galling for the sporting shooters to see the police on one hand saying ‘we are hard on gun crime’ – and yet in this particular case allowing people to possess guns without a certificate. It’s a crime to possess a gun without a certificate and therefore completely wrong for the police to be complicit in that.”
The unmanageable surplus of applications began with a surge in the number of renewals in 2011. This continued into 2012, when there was an average backlog of 13,000 licences between April and December.
Chief Superintendent Ann Wakefield said: “Last year the backlog of work was enormous. We recognised then and we recognise now that it was a very poor service and not what we aim to provide. It badly inconvenienced a significant number of certificate holders.”
Hampshire Police said extra staff were called in to help and the process has since been made more efficient.