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Labour’s manifesto commitment on firearms – is it a “gun tax”?

The Labour Party’s commitment to increase firearms licensing fees through full-cost recovery has been described as a “gun tax” in a recent article in the Daily Telegraph. The incentive behind raising firearms licensing fees to a level which could far outstrip the rate of inflation, is to raise £20 million which will be used to increase funding for other crime prevention schemes, such as curbing knife crime in urban areas.  

The current firearms licensing system in Britain is underperforming, in some areas woefully so. The Countryside Alliance has long campaigned for any increase in firearms licensing fee to be accompanied with an ironclad commitment to improve the service level delivered to firearms licensees. There is enormous inefficiency in the current system and any calculation of full-cost recovery fees must take this into account, as well as acknowledging the element of public interest in this service. 

For some of the 42 police forces that issue firearms licences, the cost of granting and renewing firearms licences and shotgun certificates exceeds the chargeable fees, which currently vary between £49 and £90*. However, that is not universal. Some police forces are able to provide an efficient and effective service without creating a deficit. If a full-cost recovery fee is introduced, it must be based on that of an efficient, well-run service. If a full-cost recovery fee is based on one the more inefficient services, then a new fee could skyrocket to £400 or more, which, as Roger Seddon, Shooting Campaign Manager at the Countryside Alliance previously warned “would put legal and safe gun ownership out of financial reach of many.”  

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said that “many people need those licences to carry out their jobs. To tap them for a few hundred quid here or there is naïve, and frankly, it shows a lack of understanding of the countryside.”  

To make firearms ownership more difficult, yet stating in their manifesto that “Labour will deliver for nature” is contradictory. It is widely accepted across the conservation sphere that we need more deer management in this country, and the way to do that is to get more people out deer stalking. By raising the barrier to legitimate firearms ownership, Labour will be doing a disservice to the environment, deer welfare, and those who look after the countryside. 

* Current fees for firearms grants and renewals vary by type, for example the renewal of a shotgun certificate costs £49 whereas the grant of a coterminous shotgun certificate and firearms licence costs £90, with many iterations in between. 

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