Opinion Former Article

BASC NI raises licensing concerns

BASC has met staff from the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor General’s office for the third time to raise concerns over firearms licensing issues.

The meeting, arranged by Patsy McGlone MLA, was organised after BASC received further complaints from individual and trade members on a range of issues.

Lengthy delays in the processing of applications were discussed, including the example of an applicant who has been waiting more than two years for the further grant of a firearm certificate with a variation.

Concerns around applications being “rejected” by Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Firearms and Explosives Branch were also raised. BASC feels that many of the queries relating to those applications could be resolved by a simple follow-up phone call or email to the applicant.

BASC NI director Tommy Mayne said: “BASC is very grateful for the opportunity to once again share the frustrations and concerns of our members.

“The rigorous but protracted and bureaucratic application process to become a firearms dealer was highlighted, along with the burdensome security requirements which, in BASC’s view, are disproportionate.

“BASC is the only shooting organisation that has met with the Auditor General and we have already seen a significant reduction in processing times for firearms licensing applications thanks to his input.”

Patsy McGlone, chairman of the NI Assembly’s All Party Group on Country Sports, said: “Unfortunately, the cost of a firearm certificate nearly doubled in NI in May 2016 and as the level of service has declined, we found it necessary to involve the Auditor General.

“We must also consider the PSNI’s failure to deliver on assurances that were given to the Justice Committee during their evidence sessions prior to the fees increase.

“Those assurances relate to better engagement with stakeholders, the publication of processing times and better accountability.

“We had a constructive third meeting with Audit Office staff who clearly recognise the economic impact caused by an overly bureaucratic system and lengthy processing delays.

“I am confident that as a result of our combined efforts, the Auditor General will use his influence to ensure that these issues are addressed, that service levels are further improved and that processing times are published.

“The Auditor’s team advised that, following their audit of PSNI Firearms and Explosives Branch, they have now drafted a short report which they hope to publish around the start of August. We very much look forward to further engagement with the team and to seeing their report which will be available to the public.”

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