Have you ever heard the expression “you bought a lemon”? In case you haven’t it’s generally an “Americanism” for a car (usually new) that is riddled with faults. Now imagine someone in authority told you it was a requirement for you to use the car by law and that you have to pay for a license to use it. Now being a law abiding citizen you dutifully pay your due and wait for the keys………only the keys don’t come. Weeks go by, then months and still no keys. You try to contact them but they brush you aside, after a few months they come back to you and say, “we need more money.” This is what has happened in Northern Ireland today when it comes to firearms licensing and MLAs.

According to a BBC report and a report released by the Northern Ireland Audit Office on Firearm licensing in the Provence they “found a “public subsidy” of about £300,000 per year has been needed as gun licensing has cost more than it has brought in.” An apparent 1.6 million is needed for licensing yet 1.3 million is taken in from licensed shooters and now MLAs are actually suggesting that shooters completely foot the bill.

The problem I can see is blatant, firstly shooters didn’t ask for the system that is in place, they didn’t ask to have to pay for a license, they didn’t ask to waste police time and they most certainly should not be expected to cover the entire costs when no government initiative like this makes a full cost recovery. If the government require shooters to be licensed and vetted (Which is entirely sensible) then the same government should expect to pay into the system they force at gunpoint. Calling for all costs to be covered by the shooter is absolutely astounding. The DVLA process a lot more licenses with less cost to the applicant, I fail to see why Firearms licensing can’t do the same. It also begs the question is there a shortfall for them as well?

Secondly in the report (which I have in front of me) it says…

Now I’ve previously covered the PSNI implementing (against advice) an online only system here, I’ve stated previously my concerns that this move was discriminatory against older shooters, disabled/vulnerable shooters and those that don’t have a decent internet connection as unfortunately NI does not have a good internet system province wide. Shooting organisations, share holders or the shooters themselves were not consulted about the change. It was simply implemented.

What sticks out for me here is that the PSNI refuse to post statistics backing up that their new system is doing what it was supposed to do and that their silence started on the same date the online system was implemented however the report contradicts the narrative of the BBC, it stated,

So December 2017 there were 2,485 applicants, yet on the next page,

The PSNI claim to have reduced that vast number to 148 paper and 22 online applications. Well if your system is so successful why is it that shooters are being asked for more money by MLAs? If the system is successful why is there a list of shooters as long as your arm here waiting for their firearms license? Why are people reporting a wait of 9 months instead of 56 days, are the shooters liars or is this report being liberal with facts?

SDLP MLA John Dallat said that firearms licensing should be “self-financing” and the financial shortfall could be “better channelled into other services such as health and education”. Might I suggest Mr Dallat that perhaps MLAs salary ie the 9 million pounds payed to MLAs since you all decided not to turn up for work, would be “better channelled into other services such as health and education” or does that shoe only fit when it suits you?

He also stated that the numbers of licenses issued means that “a full recovery of costs is not unreasonable and should be achieved as quickly as possible”.

Again Mr Dallat why should legal shooters be singled out to fully pay for a government service that is forced upon them when we already subsidise the system almost entirely? Essentially what you want is for the legal shooter to cover the costs of an online only system nobody asked for and that was implemented against advice. Perhaps you would like to contribute some of your own pay to alleviation of the issue Mr Dallat.

Of course I’m sure I don’t have to bring up the fact shooting adds 2 billion to our economy.

The biggest problem for me with this “suggestion” is it again unfairly punishes the shooters. The sport is already expensive to get into due to safes, licensing, club costs, insurance etc. Increasing the cost to cover £300,000 that the government pays and to force applicants to pay instead is absolutely ludicrous.

The fees were already doubled from £50 to £98 in May 2016. Prior to that increase, multiple sets of figures in relation to the costs of firearms licensing system were produced, none of which stood up to scrutiny. Shooters are unable to hold licensing to account and many already feel they don’t get the service that they pay for without having to pay even more for a service that many feel is inadequate. It should also be noted that since the cost increase it has actually created a bigger workload for firearms dealers.

Patsy McGlone a pro shooter of the same party as Mr Dallat stated,

“I find it incredulous that PSNI is unable to count the number of outstanding paper applications and that applications waited for more than two months before being processed. The service delivered to the shooting community continues to be below the standard we would expect and it has probably been like that for more than a decade. We need to see tangible improvements and an efficient method for recording performance.” 

This isn’t over by a long shot however rest assured that myself, Firearms-UK and other shooting organisations do not intend to let this go ahead without a fight.

-Mike Lindsay

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