PCC John Campion has received more than 100 pieces of correspondence regarding delays to firearms licensing since January 2022.
Following this, in March 2023 the PCC announced a £200,000 investment in the Firearms Licensing Unit to address the delays. This funding was to fund additional posts and deliver efficiencies through improved technology. Despite this additional funding, the unit’s performance did not improve. This led to the PCC working with West Mercia Police to provide updates to the public on the current challenges until solutions were found.
Community Conversation – Hereford
In August 2023, more than 55 residents attended the PCC’s Community Conversation event in Hereford which focused on firearms licensing.
The PCC, who was joined by West Mercia Police and The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, held the event to give people an opportunity to raise concerns and hear from those in attendance about the challenges that are leading to a delay in getting a new, or renewed, firearms licence.
Safer West Mercia Podcast – Chief Inspector Callie Bradley
Due to the well attended event in Hereford, in October 2023 the PCC hosted a podcast with Chief Inspector Callie Bradley. This podcast provided a further opportunity for people to understand the challenges West Mercia Police is facing and the work they are doing to address public concerns.
Virtual Community Conversation
In November 2023, the PCC held a virtual Community Conversation via Facebook Live where questions from the public were answered by West Mercia Police’s Chief Inspector Callie Bradley. The recording can be watched below.
£260k investment in vehicles
In a move to boost the accessibility of firearms licensing officers in West Mercia, the PCC has given the green light on a £260,000 investment.
Helping to tackle the current delays, more than a quarter of a million pounds will fund additional vehicles for the Firearms Licensing Unit.
This investment will support firearms licensing officers to undertake home and business visits more efficiently – an important stage before a licence can be granted – as well as improving access to the most rural parts of West Mercia.
Frequently asked questions
Why don’t you make firearms licences 10 years? And why don’t you bring in an independent body to help get the licences through faster?
West Mercia Police is guided by legislation which requires renewals every 5 years.
West Mercia Police is not aware of any external bodies who carry out firearms licensing separate to the police, as this is a requirement for all Chief Officers to govern licensing within their force area.
What do the Police believe to be a realistic, achievable target for granting and renewing shotgun and firearms licences – what would they be happy to be held to when balancing the need to protect the public from unsuitable people being given the ability to hold shotguns/ firearms against the need to deal with the applications (whether granted or not) in a timely manner?
West Mercia Police will always put public safety at the forefront of what they do. This means the unit will always focus on renewals as the risk is that these individuals already have weapons in the home/workplace, and therefore the risk is higher than that of someone waiting for a grant. West Mercia Police give their assurance that if a renewal is submitted 16 to 12 weeks prior to the expiry of the certificate, it will be issued on time. An automatic extension of 8 weeks will be applied if there are additional enquiries required, and these are not completed in time for the renewal. This can include follow up GP reports, further visits by the Firearms Enquiry Officer and/ enhanced checks if necessary.
What date for shotgun grants are the licensing team up to? If I have used the online form and attempted to phone to ascertain this but have not received any reply or cannot get through or struggle to phone in their open hour.
West Mercia Police is currently looking at an 8 month wait for shotgun grants. This has reduced recently as two new members of staff have been recruited into the team in September and October to focus on the backlogs. West Mercia Police hope to reduce the wait to about six months in the coming months.
The phone lines into the unit are staffed between 11am and 12 midday. It is advised that people should only phone if your licence is expiring and you have forgotten to submit your renewal in time. If you are waiting for a grant, someone from the unit will be in touch when your application is processed.
If you have submitted your renewal, it is advised that you do not contact the unit unless a mistake has been made on your form and you need to rectify it. Someone from the unit will be in touch if anything else is needed.
When should I be advising my shotgun instructors to apply for a renewal so that they are able to continue working in that capacity without any issues. I.e. how long before it expires should they apply for a renewal?
16 to 12 weeks prior to the expiry.
Through the time of my application, I have learnt that the sticking point causing the delay is the office staff not the FEO’s to process the paperwork – and I would like to know what is being done to resolve this?
There are backlogs in both the office, and with the Firearms Enquiry Officer. West Mercia Police work cohesively as a team to address the demand.
Please can you tell me why a person can obtain a firearms licence, who lives in a house with others who have great concern over having firearms in their home isn’t asked to give consent or even asked to sign as a referee.
West Mercia Police follow the guidance set out by the Home Office. This does not require the police to interview the family members about their views on firearms ownership within their family/household. The unit’s officers will follow statutory guidance and interview family members in certain circumstances including, but not limited to reports of domestic or sexual abuse within the home.
What is being done to bolster the supervisory staff who will have more people to manage/ supervise and therefore more cases to review as the backlog is dealt with?
Within the new proposed model, there is an increase in the supervisory staff numbers as well as the caseworkers and Firearms Enquiry Officer.
I keep trying to contact the firearms team but there is never any response. Why is this?
Please report change of addresses through the West Mercia Police website.
Phone lines into the unit are staffed between 11am and 12 midday. Please only phone if you are expiring and you have forgotten to submit your renewal in time. If you are waiting for a grant, the unit will be in touch when your application is processed.