Firearms Licensing System in the UK on the Verge of Collapse due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Coronavirus Pandemic is causing delays and a huge backlog of firearms certificate applications.

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At the end of 2021, Police in North Yorkshire infomed new firearm license applicants that they would not be accepting any new firearms or shotgun certificate applications due to the backlog that had been growing after the lockdowns and highly restrictive measures introduced by the government.

Instead the police said that they would be putting their efforts into renewal applications; even before the pandemic, there were cases in the past where firearms owners have managed to hold onto their firearms even when their licenses expire. It is also a situation that occurs in continental Europe, and law enforcement organizations have looked to address these situations.

After North Yorkshire Police’s decision, Thames Valley; Northamptonshire; Cambridgeshire; Bedfordshire; Hertfordshire; and Hampshire Police as well as other law enforcement entities have decided to go down the same route: none will be accepting new applications.

Many reports have been made by firearms certificate holders that their firearms or shotgun certificate applications have not been successfully renewed or that applications that have been made are reportedly not being dealt with by a local police force.

Many need a firearms certificate for their job, and in some instances a failure to process an application could mean that an individual loses his or her job and livelihood. This is especially the case for those who use firearms to deal with pest control and other animals that can cause damage to property if not maintained.

The coronavirus pandemic and the restrictive measures imposed on the population have meant that Police are understaffed, and tasks are shared between different police departments. Furthermore, there have also been recent changes to legislation within the United Kingdom, which further add confusion to the licensing regime, and the involvement of medical professionals will not help the licensing process.

Many medical professionals in the United Kingdom are against the concept of gun ownership; and many have also refused to take part in firearms license applications due to their political views.

These obstacles make it very difficult for one to get into the sport of shooting in the uk. In most cases the cons outweigh the pros: at any moment the Police can take away your firearms or shotgun certificate for any reason that they deem necessary; regardless of all the hurdles, training, responsibility, good behavior and care shown. Once someone loses their firearms or shotgun certificate, it is difficult to get it back, and the police will take a dim view of anyone that has had their license revoked.

Especially after the Plymouth shooting, police are taking an even more skeptical view on firearms license applications, and social media posts are now to be monitored in case people have views that the police may deem inappropriate. Someone who may be very pro-gun, libertarian, conservative, pro-free speech, may find that their views are not in good standing with the police; which could put their application at risk of being rejected.

Even before the Plymouth Shooting, police were already looking into the social media profiles of high profile figures within the British shooting community. An example of this would be the time when Callum Long-Collins had his firearms certificates revoked due to views that the police deemed unacceptable.

Callum Long-Collins is a well known English gun-rights activist who is the owner of English Shooting. After the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015, Callum Long-Collins proclaimed that if the victims had been armed prior to the attacks, then they would have had a better chance of surviving: French law prohibits people carrying concealed firearms and self-defense with firearms is also prohibited.

The Police decided to revoke Callum Long-Collins’ certificates and firearms after a false allegation of assault was made, and the views espoused by Callum Long-Collins on the topic of self-defense was all they needed to revoke his certificates. The decision was eventually contested at court; which did cost an arm and a leg: the fees for the court day were £2500 and hours of prior preparation with Callum’s legal team went into the thousands.

In the end, the court decided that it would uphold the decision. The court understood that Callum was very passionate about firearms, but they were afraid that he was promoting vigilantism amongst UK gun owners; nevertheless, Callum was informed that he could apply again in May 2020 if he could show behavior that does not cause concern.

Despite these restrictive measures, the United Kingdom still has the highest crime rate in Europe. There are 96 rapes per 100,000 people, and crime is on the increase with knife crime being one of the main.

Over the years, the public in the United Kingdom have been led to believe that the current system is working and that the government is doing their part to make society safer. Self defense is also illegal; proportionality is a legal alternative, but there is little legal definition to describe this.

Regardless of the failures of gun control the response of the British government has been to increase restrictions even further: now MARS rifles that are not have been banned after the Offensive Weapons Bill passed after its third reading on March 19th, 2019 and signed Royal assent on May 16th, 2019.

It does not look like the tide will turn any time soon - the British public are in favor of the government’s hawkish approach to firearms ownership among the public - and the mainstream media is fiercely opposed to the idea. In fact many gun rights experts such as John Lott have frequently appeared on U.K. tv shows to discuss research and provide their opinion, but to no avail. The British media show no respect to the opposing side; even if there is clear evidence to suggest gun ownership does in fact reduce crime. At the end of the day, it is the British people who are going to be the ones who will have to decide what society they want to live in.