Over 55 concerned members of the local shooting community gathered at a community conversation event hosted by PCC John Campion in Hereford on Wednesday, 2nd August. The spotlight of the meeting was the mounting frustration over the protracted period it's taking to obtain or renew a firearms licence.
Despite a £200,000 injection of funds into the firearms licensing unit (FLU) by Mr Campion earlier in March, which aimed to expand the FLU's capacity and tackle backlogs, the benefits have yet to trickle down to some local residents. Over the past 18 months, more than 77 pieces of correspondence voicing disappointment have been received by the PCC from disgruntled locals, and their frustration was palpable during the event.
Mr Campion took the opportunity to assuage these frustrations, reassuring attendees that he remains steadfast in his commitment to support the force in using his investment to catalyse change.
The event saw senior officers from West Mercia Police outlining the firearms licensing process and the current state of affairs, while also detailing their plans to expedite the process. Utilising the PCC's funding to implement an online system and increase staffing were among the key strategies mentioned.
Despite the prevailing sense of disappointment, the police were also commended for their openness and helpful communication, with positive feedback being received from those who have already navigated the licensing process.
West Mercia is recognised as the region with the highest quantity of firearm holders in England and Wales, a fact further complicated by changes to the national licensing system and disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic.
The event also served as a platform for dialogues between the PCC, West Mercia Police and The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, signifying the joint commitment to resolve these issues and foster a more efficient firearms licensing process.