Agreement has been reached on firearms fees and a banded system for rifles between an alliance of shooting and rural organisations, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The rural organisations include Countryside Alliance Ireland (CAI), The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, (BASC) and the Gun Trade Guild NI (GTG NI).
On licensing fees – which had been proposed at £131 - a figure of £98 has been agreed with the PSNI committing to publishing processing targets and being held accountable for them.
The DoJ had also proposed to more than treble the cost of a firearms licence variation from the current £26 to £89. Following a joint presentation to the NI Assembly’s Justice Committee and further representations made by CAI, BASC and GTG NI, the £89 fee has been reduced to £30.
The cost of a firearms dealer’s certificate will increase from the current £150 to £300 however this will be an interim fee pending further discussion. It is likely that the new fees will be implemented around November/December 2015.
CAI, BASC and the GTG NI, have also reached agreement with the DOJ and the PSNI on a banded system that will allow a firearms certificate holder to exchange any rifle listed on their firearm certificate, for any other rifle listed in the same published band.
Once implemented, the bands will cover a wide range of firearms and calibres, including air rifles, rimfire rifles, and the more common fox and deer calibre rifles. Dealers will have to undergo training before they can carry out banded system transactions. The system should be implemented in the spring of 2016.
Lyall Plant, Chief Executive of Countryside Alliance Ireland commented: “On behalf of CAI, I am delighted that agreement has been reached in respect of fees and the banded system. The help and assistance from our political representatives has been huge and I must reiterate our thanks to them for their commitment and unstinting support.
“CAI has long been a believer that country sports organisations must work together to secure our common goals and the agreement on fees and the banded system can be justly attributed to our partnership approach. There is still much work to do especially in relation to young shooters, but our members can be assured we will continue to vigorously campaign on their behalf and their interests will remain at the heart of everything we do.”
BASC Northern Ireland director Tommy Mayne said: “This has been a very lengthy and time consuming process and we are happy with the outcomes. BASC, CAI and the GTG NI, thank the NI Assembly’s Committee for Justice for their patience and understanding.
“We also thank the members of the Assembly’s All Party Group on Country Sports for their support. In particular MLAs Patsy McGlone, Paul Frew, Edwin Poots and Danny Kinahan (MP) played a significant role in helping us reach a successful outcome.
“We also thank the Minister and his Department for their recent efforts to resolve these issues. We note that the Minister hopes to deal with them in this Assembly mandate, subject to the will of the Assembly. We sincerely hope that this will be the case.”
David Robinson, chair of the GTG NI and Countryside Alliance Ireland board member, said: “While there was an impasse for several years we are delighted with the progress that has been made.
“We hope to build on the improved relationships and we look forward to working with the Minister, his Department and the PSNI on the unresolved issues such as dealer security, the Ministerial Directive and the age reduction for young shooters.”