Gun owners in the Westcountry have been handed a temporary reprieve after a proposed increase in certificate fees was postponed by the Home Office.
The cost of a shotgun or firearms certificate – currently £50 for five years – has not risen since 2001. However, major concerns were raised in the summer when it emerged that the Association of Chief Police Officers was lobbying for fees to nearly double to £94.
The Home Office has now opted to postpone an increase to allow for further investigation into costs and the role of medical advice in the licensing process.
A working group will be set up to examine police costs for administering the service and to investigate how GPs can be more involved in the licensing process without adding unduly to their responsibilities or penalising applicants.
The move has been welcomed by the UK's largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).
BASC chief executive Richard Ali said: "We welcome the constructive approach which the Home Office and Government have taken towards this complex issue. They have listened to the concerns of law-abiding gun owners and set out a realistic way forward. The real costs of police administration can now be examined, inefficiencies tackled and improvements made."
Devon and Cornwall has the highest rate of gun ownership in the country. There are 9,728 firearms certificates covering 26,838 weapons and 30,653 shotgun certificates, covering 67,485 shotguns.
The bill for administering the licensing system last year cost Devon and Cornwall Police £1.25 million. However it received only £446,000 in fees. In 2012, Avon and Somerset Police had some 26,000 certificates on issue, covering some 62,000 firearms and shotguns, and Dorset with 14,000, covering 34,000 guns.