STRICT licensing controls being considered for all gun owners and users have been criticised as too stringent by local shooting clubs. The clubs, responding to a government consultation paper, are concerned about safe handling tests proposed as part of an overhaul of firearms licensing. Under the proposal, all club members will have to pass a course testing their competency, before being able to fire a gun. Some clubs have asked to set the course syllabus and have also criticised licensing conditions concerning storage of firearms. A Security Branch spokesman said it had received 19 submissions to the extensive proposals which also cover arms dealers, air guns, deactivated firearms and the use of modified firearms for film production. He said: 'Most of the clubs support in principle the regulation of shooting clubs by way of licence. However they disagree with some of the proposed licensing conditions. 'Some have asked us to relax some of the conditions regarding the safe handling tests and storage of firearms.' Last night few gun clubs were available to comment. A spokesman for the Hong Kong Gun Club said: 'We are a private club. Our policy is not to comment.' The safe-handling test syllabus has yet to be decided, but it is likely to include a practical demonstration in front of police examiners. The review, conducted by a working group with representatives from the Security Branch, Police, Customs and Excise Department, Trade Department, Post Office and Civil Engineering Department, also proposed restrictions be placed on the number of firearms and amount of ammunition which can be owned by licence holders. The number of shooting clubs in Hong Kong has increased from 13 in 1988 to 22, while the number of licences for possession of arms has almost doubled, from 894 to 1,753. Under the present Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance (1981) any new applicant for a gun licence must satisfy the Commissioner of Police there is a legitimate need and that he or she is a suitable person. The need for a firearm is considered legitimate if the applicant is a member of a shooting club, or a representative of a security company, bank or jewellery shop. Police will also ensure applicants have no criminal records, are physically and mentally fit and have access to safe storage facilities.