The PSNI’s move towards an online only application system for firearm licences has led to an additional charge for gun owners without internet access.
Not only has the actual cost of the licence increased, but the internet based system has created a situation where those without computer knowledge or internet are having to turn to firearms dealers - who are charging up to £40 to fill in the forms.
There should be an alternative paper based system until access to broadband is rural areas is greatly improvedBailie Thompson Ulster Farmers’ Union chair
The Mail contacted two registered firearms dealers in Mid Ulster, one of whom said they were already charging £40 for this service as it takes up their time. Another said they had not yet started charging, but intended to when they got they got their heads around the system.
In February 2016 the Mail reported how the cost of owning a gun had almost doubled - from £50 to £98 for five years.
Less than a year later [January 2017] the PSNI launched its online application system.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union has been critical of the PSNI’s move to an online-only system. Its chairman Bailie Thompson said: “The union has been vocal in its concerns regarding the PSNI’s move to online only applications for firearms and the dramatic increase in cost.
“For many rural dwellers, access to good quality broadband and computer literacy means they are often excluded from digital systems.
“There should be an alternative paper based system until access to broadband in rural areas is greatly improved. Northern Ireland has the lowest broadband connectivity rate in the UK, but it appears to be the only region with these online only plans.”
The PSNI said that while some firearms dealers bought their own computers, it also “gifted” a “significant number” to dealers and target clubs to enable “firearm certificate holders to complete the online application while on their premises”.
But, Nichola Murphy Head of the PSNI’s Firearms and Explosive Branch said: “In light of firearms dealers being private enterprises it is at the discretion of each individual business whether or not they apply a fee for completing the form.”