Catching up with the Police Firearms Licensing teams

Clay Shooting Magazine editor James Marchington visited the Northern Shooting Show and meets the Police Firearms Licensing teams.

This column all too often becomes a bit of a moan, if not an actual rant, about something that’s got my goat – so let’s talk about something positive for once!

I recently visited the Northern Shooting Show for the first time. I’d heard nothing but good things about the show, but for one reason or another had never been able to attend, so this year I jumped at the chance.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was a great show with a really good atmosphere. The organisers were friendly and helpful, I got in and out with minimal delay on both days, and the show did what it said on the tin – it was a shooting show, without a load of candy floss and garden furniture stalls shoehorned in to make up the numbers.

Located on the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate, it attracts a good many exhibitors and visitors from northern England and even across the border from Scotland, so I was able to catch up with people I see all too rarely, living as I do on the outskirts of London – sterling folks like Byron and Darryl Pace, Rachel Carrie and BASC’s Duncan Thomas. 

There was too much at the show to describe it all, from Cai Ap Bryn’s excellent Game & Flames stand, to the Deerhunter Symposium, the CPSA and BASC’s have-a-go stands, and three halls packed with guns, accessories and clothing.

One thing that caught my eye was the row of police firearms licensing department stands – no fewer than ten – between them covering most of northern England. They weren’t just marketing stalls; they were staffed by the actual teams who handle firearms licensing for North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Durham and the rest. 

This makes the Northern Shooting Show unique – nowhere else can you simply walk up and chat with the people who handle licensing applications on a daily basis.

Unsurprisingly my local force, Surrey, hadn’t made the trip to North Yorkshire, so I looked for the most southerly outfit I could find, and as a result I ended up introducing myself to Andrew Hawkins, senior administrator with Lincolnshire’s firearms licensing team.

He greeted me with a beaming smile and a handshake, and we chatted for some time about the show, shooters in general, and his role in particular.

“We’re some way from Lincolnshire today but we wanted to get out and meet the shooting community. There’s nothing better than talking to people face-to-face and I’m really enjoying it,” he told me, explaining that he is usually office-based while his FEOs are out in the field meeting shooters every day. 

“We’re here to protect the shooting community,” he continued. “It’s not a ‘them and us’ situation. At the end of the day we’ve all got the same aim, which is to keep people safe and let shooters enjoy their sport.”

Andrew was kept busy through the show explaining Lincolnshire’s new online application process, which has speeded up applications and renewals while also improving accuracy. “You can even apply on your mobile phone now,” he added.

All very impressive – but what really struck me was how refreshing it was to meet a real live human being face to face, rather than dealing with forms, websites and emails.

I get the feeling the police found the show useful, and certainly the shooters appreciated seeing them there. It’s a brilliant idea which I’d love to see taken up at more shows and game fairs around the country. 

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