Last year our police force had to subsidise gun ownership in the West Midlands to the tune of £100,000.
I couldn’t believe it either, but it’s true. It’s all down to the amount the government allows West Midlands Police to charge for gun licences.
To own a gun in the UK you have to have a certificate. Before the police issue that certificate they run extensive and costly background checks to establish whether or not you are a fit and proper person and should own a gun. The checks include questions around your mental health and past convictions; to name just two.
The problem is that whilst police forces can charge people to obtain a certificate, it is the government that sets the rate for those certificates. These prices are currently lower than the administration costs involved. In fact, on average, West Midlands Police loses £36.85 per application. In total, that adds up to £100,000 each year. It’s money the force can’t spend employing police officers. For a cash-strapped force to subsidise gun ownership is, in my opinion, simply wrong. Across the country the subsidy costs police forces more than £6 million.
So, I’m calling on the government to make a small and easily achievable change. I want them to increase the cost of shotgun and firearm licences by an average of £36.85. I want the Home Office to conduct a review and to revise the charges. All 28 MPs in our area have been written to and asked to back my proposal. It feels wrong that whilst each year the force shrinks in size, thanks to budget cuts, it is also subsidising gun ownership. There is no problem with people owning a gun as long as the ownership is properly regulated, but I don’t believe it should be subsidised by police forces. The fees charged for licences should reflect the administrative costs involved in issuing them and tax payer’s money should be used to put bobbies on the beat.
David Jamieson – West Midlands PCC