Gun licenses revoked by Hertfordshire Police hundreds of times in 13 years

The Government is calling on forces to review their current vetting processes and look at whether they need to revisit existing licences

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 3:59 pm

Police revoked the rights of gun owners in Hertfordshire hundreds of times in 13 years, figures show.

Following the recent mass shooting in Plymouth police forces across England and Wales have been urged to review their firearm application processes.

Jake Davison killed five and wounded two others after having his gun licence reinstated just months after it was revoked following his involvement in a fight.

Police

In light of the gunman's deadly attack, the Government is calling on forces to review their current vetting processes and look at whether they need to revisit existing licences.

Home Office figures show Hertfordshire Police revoked two licences and refused to renew one in the year to March.

In the same period, the force approved 401 new applications for firearm or shotgun licences.

Since 2008, when recording began, officers have approved 7,998 applications but revoked 256 licences and refused 20 applications for renewal.

A firearms certificate can be revoked for several reasons, including if a holder presents a danger to the public, is of "intemperate habits or unsound mind", no longer has a good reason to possess a firearm or has failed to comply with conditions under which the certificate is held.

The data shows that more than 560,000 people across England and Wales held shotgun or firearm licences in March, including 9,955 in Hertfordshire.

Supt Clare Smith, Deputy Head of Criminal Justice for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire police forces, said: “The terrible events in Plymouth are thankfully an extremely rare occurrence.

"Clear firearms licensing processes are in place and stringent checks are carried out by our team of experts whenever an application is received.

"Our primary concern is the safety of the public and firearms certificates are only issued when an individual passes background checks and meets the criteria set out in the Home Office’s national legislation.

"These processes are currently being reviewed ahead of new statutory guidance by the Home Office.

“Firearms certificate holders must reapply for their license every five years and this is an opportunity for us to check that personal circumstances have not changed.

"Certificates can be revoked sooner if information comes to light that affects their suitability.

"This can be for a variety of reasons including changes in their health or their involvement in criminal or unsuitable activity.”

The Government is now preparing to publish statutory guidance in an effort to ensure "greater consistency and higher standards" of decision making around firearms licensing.

Changes are likely to include greater scrutiny of an applicant's internet and social media use.

But the British Association for Shooting and Conservation says the process has taken too long, with a spokesman adding that the organisation had warned successive Government ministers of deadly consequences if stricter vetting processes were not implemented.

BASC is calling on the Government to introduce a statutory obligation that would see a marker included on medical notes indicating whether a patient had access to guns.

Christopher Graffius, from BASC, said: "I have been calling for this since 2013 and have told ministers that we would end up with people dead, likely women."

He added: "It is in the shooting community's interest to ensure public safety and it is absolutely awful to see tragedies like this."

Gill Marshall-Andrews of the Gun Control Network said most licensed gun owners were law abiding, adding: "But what is clear is that the more guns there are in circulation the greater the chance of an atrocity like this one in Plymouth.

"We need much more oversight of gun owners in this country."

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Incidents such as Thursday’s horrific events in Plymouth are thankfully rare, but their impact is profound, not only on those directly affected but on the public as a whole.

"We constantly assess what sensible and proportionate steps we can take to help prevent such terrible loss of life happening."