Changes to firearms licensing in Northern Ireland needed to “free up trade”

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation in Northern Ireland (BASC NI) has called for the Ministerial Directive that limits the number of firearms that a registered firearms dealer may hold, to be scrapped.

BASC NI’s recommendation, outlined in a survey response to the Department of Justice (DoJ), is that the number of firearms a dealer can hold, should be decided on an individual basis, depending on the capacity of the dealer and their ability to store the firearms safely.

The current approach restricts the ability of many businesses to trade at full capacity and means that on occasions registered firearms dealers are unable to temporarily store customer’s firearms on their certificate.

In addition, the lengthy delays in the processing of firearms applications by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have left dealers holding firearms that have already been sold, restricting their ability to order any new stock.

Tommy Mayne, BASC NI director, said: “The restrictions imposed by the Ministerial Directive have caused countless unnecessary issues for businesses across Northern Ireland for many years. Covid, Brexit and protracted licensing delays have only compounded the issues making it the perfect storm.

“The vastly improved security situation in Northern Ireland means the department can no longer reasonably justify retaining the directive in any form. Our recommendation would free up trade with no further risk to public safety, so we are hopeful for a positive outcome. We look forward to working with the DoJ on this important issue.”

The chair of the Northern Ireland Firearms Dealers’ Association (NIFDA) David McBride said: “The DoJ need to recognise and appreciate the economic impact that the directive has had on firearms dealers for many years.

“BASC and NIFDA welcome the fact that senior PSNI officers have recently acknowledged that Northern Ireland has one of the most robust licensing systems in the world. That being the case, our organisations can see no justifiable reason, as to why the PSNI would not support, the scrapping of the Ministerial Directive in its entirety.”

Patsy McGlone MLA, chair of the NI Assembly’s All Party Group on Country Sports, said: “In Northern Ireland, recreational shooting is widely recognised as a cross community sport. Shooting puts food on the table, it gets people into the countryside and the exercise is beneficial for physical health and personal well-being. Shooting activities in Northern Ireland contribute £28 million annually to the economy, directly supporting the equivalent of 770 full-time jobs.

“Shooting has been a legitimate way of life in rural Northern Ireland for generations, supporting rural economies, including the tourism and hospitality industries. That being the case, it is vital that small family run businesses are free from unnecessary red tape which would otherwise inhibit legitimate trade.”