Federation response to firearms consultation

Feb 22, 2017

The Federation has recently responded to the Home Office consultation on firearms licencing fees: prohibited weapons, museums, and approved shooting clubs:

 We are responding to the above consultation as it directly affects a number of our member museums.

 

We have considerable concerns that the changes proposed – to considerably increase the licence fees – could have a significant, detrimental effect on museums holding items that make an important contribution to the nation’s heritage and community memory.  Whilst we understand the financial circumstances that have led to this review, all museums have, and continue to be subject to considerable reductions in funding.  Any increase in fees – and on such a scale – will be difficult to meet in the current financial climate.  We urge the government to make no change in the current charges made to museums.

 

Museums hold items that have particular historical and cultural value to the communities they serve.  Some will have national and international significance.  Firearms held in military museums are essential to tell the story of Britain’s military history and what we can learn from international conflicts; firearms held in local museums often have very local historical and community connections.  Whilst military museums may have a wide range of weapons that reflect the history of the regiments they interpret, other museums (especially local authority) may also have weapons.  In this latter case it is likely to be only one or two items.

 

Previous governments recognised these values by introducing the Museums Firearms Licence which enabled museums to hold firearms without individuals or curators having to have a firearms licence.  Firearms are held in museums for the contribution they can make to the interpretation of history – not for use – indeed most are decommissioned.  Even if decommissioned we understand a licence still has to be held.

 

Local police forces, following firearms seizures or amnesties, still offer/transfer historical firearms to museums that hold a Museums Firearms Licence.  This ensures that items which have some significance or historical value are not destroyed.

 

We would point out that having firearms in collections is not cost neutral – there are costs of storage and collection care to be met if museums are to meet their obligations to society.  Raising the fee from £200 to £1,240, at a time when it is well documented that museums are receiving significant budget cuts, many losing staff and/or drawing back on public services, will probably mean that many will consider not renewing their licence.  If many do this there will be no other museums to pass weapons to.  We understand in that case historic items then pass to the police who will destroy them.

 

The potential impact of this can be seen if considering it in terms of the current centenary commemorations of the First World War as an example.  If museums felt unable to afford a licence, leading the subsequent loss of historic objects in the public domain, there will be a clear, detrimental effect on our ability to learn from the past, appreciate the sacrifice of our ancestors and promote tolerance, understanding and peace for our future. 

 

We therefore urge the government to reject these changes and allow museums to continue to hold firearms on the current basis.

 

Victoria Rogers

President, Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales