WILDFOWLERS are protesting that the freedom to shoot game and compete in firearm sports is being restricted by bureaucratic gun controls, writes Simon Midgley.
Yesterday the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), which has 111,000 members, launched a one-year campaign to persuade the Government to ease procedures for issuing licences.
BASC argues that its members are being constrained by strict police implementation of the Firearms Acts, while not enough effort is being made to control unlicensed and illegally used firearms.
Bill Harriman, BASC's head of firearms, launching the campaign document, Firearms '94, yesterday said that the balance of control had swung towards controlling legitimate users rather than cracking down on illegitimate users. The association is concerned that since the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988 the number of shotgun certificates has fallen 22 per cent, from 882,000 to 689,200 in 1992. Supt Martin Hill, staff officer to Jim Sharples, Chief Constable of Merseyside, who is chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) sub committees governing the use of firearms, said yesterday that ACPO was broadly happy with the licensing system where stringent controls on legitimate gun use protected the safety of the UK's 60 million non gun users. ACPO would not want to see those controls weakened.