Warwickshire’s taxpayers are heavily subsidising gun ownership in the county, and Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Ball is calling for this to change.
He has welcomed Home Office proposals to increase the cost of a five year licence from £50 to £92, and says this should happen as a matter of urgency.
He said: “We are fortunate to live in a country where illegal firearms do not figure in most of our lives. There are a number of reasons for that and a significant one of them is that we have a strict licencing system.
“Having said that there are perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting to own a gun and they broadly fall into two categories – pest control and sport. What we need is a system that enables the legitimate use of firearms but prevents, as far as possible, weapons being available to those who want to do harm.
“I believe we have the balance broadly right in this country. What we do not have right is the situation in covering the costs of the licencing system. In effect the taxpayer is heavily subsidising gun owners and that is very difficult to justify.
“The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has done detailed work on this and Chief Constable Andy Marsh from Hampshire, who leads for them on Firearms and Explosives, has produced a report arguing that we are effectively subsidising gun owners to the tune of £17m a year across the country.
“The existing licence fee was set in 2001 at £50 for five years. There has been some inaccurate reporting, suggesting this was an annual fee, whereas the reality is the annual cost is just £10. To have gone 13 years without a price increase is little short of extraordinary.
“There has also been misleading information suggesting the fee is purely for processing paperwork. Rigorous background checks are carried out on individuals applying for licenses and their premises are inspected to ensure that they are suitably secure.
“Across the alliance we currently employ 28 staff to process this work, and we are one of the most efficient forces in the country. We all benefit from a tight rein being kept on firearm ownership, but that is an expensive exercise.
“I am not ‘anti-gun’, and I have no wish to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of people who need or want to use firearms legitimately.
“I need them to appreciate that I can’t justify committing significant resources to the licencing process at the expense of other areas.
“The proposed increase to £92 is significant, but there has been no increase for well over a decade and the licence is for five years.”