The main lobbying group for shooting in the UK has provided hospitality to two influential Conservative MPs in the last few weeks, following reports that the organisation is trying to fight back against calls for stricter rules around gun ownership following the inquest into the 2021 Plymouth shooting.
A government whip and the chair of the parliamentary group for Conservative MPs have both received hospitality from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), according to the latest entry in the register of members’ financial interests.
It comes after the Guardian reported last month that the UK shooting lobby would be seeking meetings with ministers to put forward the case against reforming licensing rules to make it more difficult for people to own shotguns.
An inquest jury into the August 2021 Plymouth shooting, in which six people died including killer Jake Davison, found that Devon and Cornwall police made a “catastrophic error” in providing Davison with a licence for the weapon he went on to use in the killing spree.
Senior figures in the police as well as families of the victims of the shooting have called for the law to be changed to make it harder to get a shotgun licence, and there have also been calls for the cost of licences to increase.
Eight meetings with ministers since 2017
Amanda Solloway, government whip and junior minister at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, attended a clay pigeon shooting day on 11 February, valued at £576 including hospitality, provided by BASC.
In January, chair of the highly influential Conservative 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady attended a BASC dinner along with his wife, with tickets provided by BASC worth £324.
While both events took place before the Plymouth Shooting inquest concluded, the inquiry had long been expected to highlight issues with the firearms licensing regime.
BASC also funds the Shooting and Conservation All Party Parliamentary Group, providing secretariat services worth £1,500 every year since it was set up in 2015. The APPG is chaired by Conservative MP and vice president of BASC, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
The lobbying group has met with ministers on eight occasions since 2017, in most cases accompanied by at least one Conservative MP.
Sir Geoffrey, Victoria Prentis, Caroline Johnson and Jonathan Djanogly have all taken part in meetings between ministers and BASC, discussing issues including medical checks for firearms licensing and the Offensive Weapons Bill.
The Guardian reported last month that shooting and countryside groups plan to lobby the government, arguing against tighter rules around shotgun ownership.
Groups like BASC and the Countryside Alliance argue that making it as difficult to obtain a licence for a shotgun as for a rifle would price many people out of gun ownership, and increase the workload for already stretched police firearms licensing teams.
Following the inquests into the victims of the Plymouth shooting,senior figures in the police as well as families of the victims of the shooting have called for the law to be changed to make it harder to get a shotgun licence. There have also been calls for the cost of licences to increase.
A shotgun licence currently costs just £79.50, despite the cost to police forces of processing and administering each licence being up to £520.
The Home Office has commenced a review of firearms licensing fees for police issued certificates. The key aim of the review is to achieve full cost recovery for the police.
A Home Office spokesperson declined to say whether BASC had met with ministers. They said:“The UK has some of the strictest gun controls in the world, which we keep under constant review to preserve public safety.
“We have recently updated the statutory guidance for police when issuing gun licences. This will empower the police to be more stringent and thorough in their assessment as to whether it is appropriate for someone to have a gun licence but we will not hesitate to make further changes should they be required.”
BASC did not respond to requests for comment from NationalWorld.