DORSET’S police commissioner has attacked the Prime Minister’s decision not to increase firearm licence fees, claiming taxpayers are subsidising gun owners.
Martyn Underhill said Dorset had one of the largest shooting populations in the country pro rata and the force was spending more than £250,000 subsidising the costs of issuing and renewing licences.
It currently costs £50 to apply for a five-year gun licence and £40 for a subsequent five-year renewal – charges that have not been increased since 2001.
Following two years of negotiations, a business case was put together recommending an increase in these charges but this has been overruled by David Cameron.
Mr Underhill said: “Dorset Police have estimated the cost of granting a firearms licence to be £218. The £50 charge doesn’t even cover the administration costs, let alone pay for an officer to visit the applicant to check their suitability to have a gun.
“This leaves a gap of £168 which has to come from the taxpayer – effectively removing 10 police officers from our streets to fund a leisure time hobby. I know many Dorset residents will find this a bitter pill to swallow.”
He has written to Mr Cameron asking him to review his decision or explain why he has intervened in this matter.
“David Cameron needs to justify his stand-alone decision and reassure the cynics amongst us that this isn’t about his personal hobby, the party faithful and extreme lobbying,” he said.
A Government spokesperson said: "The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world and we are determined to keep it that way.
“The Government keeps the firearms licensing system under review and next year Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary will review how it works in practice.
“We are working to improve the efficiency of the gun licensing process including the proposed piloting of an online system by the police in the autumn, with a view to rolling out next year.”