New gun licensing guidance comes into force after Plymouth shooting

Guidance will require gun licence applicants to show medical history and allow police to check their social media accounts

Holly Bancroft
Monday 01 November 2021 13:55
<p>New guidance for firearms licencing comes into force today that will require applicants to provide details of their medical history  </p>

New guidance for firearms licencing comes into force today that will require applicants to provide details of their medical history

New guidance on firearms licensing, which comes into force today, will make it a requirement for any applicant to provide details of their medical history to the police.

Applicants for a firearms licence may also be subjected to social media checks and officers will be able to interview their friends or family, or any other relevant individuals.

The new measures were prompted by the mass shooting that took place in Plymouth on August 12. In that attack, Jake Davison shot and killed five people, wounded two others, and took his own life.

The 22-year-old apprentice crane operator had had his licence and shotgun removed by police in December 2020, following an alleged assault in September of that year. However Devon and Cornwall Police returned his gun to him after he completed an anger management course.

Devon and Cornwall Police are currently being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and a police officer and a member of police staff have both been issued with misconduct notices over their handling of Davison’s application for a shotgun.

The serving of the notices means that the staff at Devon and Cornwall Police are under investigation but does not mean that they will necessarily be disciplined.

The new statutory guidance for chief officers of police on firearms licensing aims to standardise the licensing procedures in police forces.

The guidance requires that background checks must be done on every applicant for a firearms licence and a home visit should always be carried out before granting a certificate to a first-time applicant.

Any applicant for a licence will have to arrange for information about their medical suitability to carry a gun to be provided by their GP. Officers considering their application should have access to this medical information for every person who applies. “An application for a certificate will not be granted without such medical information”, the guidance reads.

Before the updated guidance came into force, some police forces were able to grant gun licences even if they hadn’t heard from the applicants’ GP. GPs were given a time period to respond and if they had not replied in the time then the licence would be issued.

Under the new guidelines chief officers will also be asked to carry out additional, non-routine, checks if they are deemed necessary. This will include “information obtained from open source social media” and “interviews with individuals other than the applicant or their referees”.

In a statement made to parliament on Monday, Policing minister Kit Malthouse said that in the light of the Plymouth shooting every police force in Britain had reviewed their firearms licensing process.

He said that a total of 6,434 firearms and shotgun licences were surrended, revoked or refused in the past year. 908 licences were subsequently returned after further checks.

Mr Malthouse said: “The new Statutory Guidance to Chief Officers of Police on firearms licensing, which was published on 20 October and comes in to force today, will help to further enhance safety checks and ensure greater consistency in licensing decisions taken by police forces.

“The Statutory Guidance makes it a requirement for information to be provided to the police about any relevant medical conditions, including mental health conditions. It also makes explicit that firearms’ applicants may be subject to open source social media checks as part of the licensing process, as well as interviews with associates, and checking to see if they have any previous record of domestic violence. The police will have a legal duty to have regard to the new statutory guidance.”

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