So far as I know, I’m in full control of my faculties – and I have no mental or physical conditions that prevent me from having procession of shotguns or a licence to hold one.
But after nearly 50 years dealing with shotguns, it now appears vermin control is beyond people of a certain age. Try to obtain a licence today and the boys in blue will insist you apply online, refusing to accept paper applications for shotguns or firearms.
Any attempt to send a paper application will be rejected, I discovered recently.
Before you ask, not having your own computer does not excuse you from this new process. I was advised to ask a trusted friend or tech-savvy family member to help. Or I could use the computer at my public library.
Unfortunately, my local library closed down several years ago.
I was then informed that I might be entitled me to complete a paper form if I had a valid “protected characteristic” under the 2010 equality act. If so, I could contact my local police force and they would consider my request on an individual basis.
What this means I am unsure. But it is not good enough to say I am incompetent in the use of computer technology or that I was born in the Fens. Neither are a valid arguments.
So, after much debate whether I should hand in my shotguns, retire from shooting and leave the local pigeon population alone this autumn, I decided to apply for a licence online – despite quietly knowing that my less than flexible joints can no longer jump in and out of hides too well.
First, I ticked the box stating I had read the guidance notes, even though I hadn’t. I then completed two pages before realising I hadn’t got all the information needed to hand. My second attempt failed because I didn’t know my referee’s middle name or place of birth. I’ve only know him 40 years.
On my third attempt, I got timed out because I couldn’t work out how to download a digital photo quickly enough. Then, once I had solved this particular puzzle, the photo failed to appear on the screen in time to complete the process.
I had thought I was well-prepared. Before this online game started, I had to ask my local doctor to complete a medical information pro forma – despite my not knowing my doctor’s name because I last visited my GP in 2001 and he had since passed away.
Soon I was £40 lighter in the pocket – and in possession of a pro forma that the computer couldn’t download because it was in the wrong format. Nevertheless, by 4.45pm on Friday, my online application was almost complete – apart from one last hiccup.
The police required my doctor’s email address, which I had submitted but according to the application was incorrect.
I called the surgery but there was no answer. So I inserted my own email, paid my £49 and submitted my application.
In all, it took me four attempts and more than a fortnight to fill out the online form. My application was a success – despite the incorrect email address.
But this was modern technology at its worst and it would have been far quicker for me to complete the paper version.
I understand the reasons but forcing people online is discriminatory and makes a simple process ridiculously complicated – and not just for those of a certain age. If I survive another five years, I doubt I will bother again. Bring back pen and paper.