Plymouth shootings: Police asked to review gun licence processon August 15, 2021 at 11:58 pm

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Police in England and Wales to assess legitimacy of existing gun licences as a matter of urgency.

People leave flowers in the Keyham area of Plymouth after five people died in a shooting on 12 August 2021

image sourcePA Media

Police forces in England and Wales are being asked to review their current firearm application processes, in the wake of the Plymouth mass shooting.

Questions remain over why Jake Davison, who killed five people and himself on Thursday, had a shotgun licence.

The Home Office is preparing new guidance to ensure higher standards of decision making around applications.

There will be advice on carrying out social media checks on people wanting to own a firearm or shotgun.

Meanwhile, a minute’s silence is to be held in Plymouth at 11:00 BST in memory of the victims, with people around the country urged to take part.

In the 12-minute attack on Thursday evening in the Keyham area of Plymouth, Davison, 22, shot his 51-year-old mother Maxine Davison, also known as Maxine Chapman, before killing Sophie Martyn, aged three, and her father Lee Martyn, aged 43.

He then killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park before shooting 66-year-old Kate Shepherd, who died at Derriford Hospital. He also shot and wounded a 33-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman before turning the gun on himself.

Prior to the attack, he wrote about mass shootings and made threats in social media posts.

Following the shooting spree, it was discovered Davison had his gun and permit revoked in December after he was accused of assault in September 2020.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is looking at why Devon and Cornwall Police returned them to him in July.

Ahead the publication of new statutory guidance, all police forces in England and Wales are being asked “as a matter of urgency… to review their practices and whether any existing licences need to be looked at again,” said a Home Office source.

“This will help reassure people that all necessary checks have been made to keep them safe.”

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Analysis box by Dominic Casciani, home and legal correspondent

The Home Office says it will publish guidance to help ensure “greater consistency and higher standards of decision making” for police firearms licensing applications.

But that promise comes almost exactly two years after a consultation on how to do this closed – and no final settled policy document has yet emerged.

Back in 2015 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary flagged problems within some forces in how they granted applications – although Devon and Cornwall was not one of the forces getting it wrong.

That report prompted the government in 2017 to give the home secretary a new power to set national guidance on firearms licensing.

Eventually, in 2019, the Home Office ran a public consultation on the detail of how ministers should word the guidance to all forces. It proposed, among many changes, that all forces should consider checking applicants’ social media.

The last MPs appear to have heard of its progress was in January, when they were told that ministers and officials were still considering the responses they’d received.

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Gun laws in the UK are sometimes described as some of the strictest in the world and a certificate issued by the police is needed to possess, buy or acquire a firearm or shotgun, and ammunition.

Former Met Police commissioner Lord Stevens told the Sunday Telegraph Davison was “clearly a dangerous man”, adding: “The videos he made should have been taken into account when he applied for a shotgun licence.

“There needs to be a trawling of online content for an in-depth assessment of who these people are and what they think.”

A Home Office source 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 again.”

  • Police forces issue shotgun and firearm certificates
  • Anyone who wants to own a gun has to show they have a “good reason” for doing so, for example for use in their job or sport
  • Independent referees provide confidential character statements about the applicant’s mental state, home life and attitude towards guns
  • Police check for a criminal record and speak to the applicant’s GP for evidence of alcoholism, drug abuse or signs of personality disorder
  • Applicants must show they have a secure location for the weapon, typically a dedicated gun cabinet. Each certificate is valid for five years
  • Police can revoke certificates if they conclude that the holder can no longer be trusted

On Sunday, prayers were held in the city in tribute to the victims.

The family of Mr Washington paid tribute to the “devoted family man, loving husband, father, grandfather and best friend”.

They said in a statement that he was a “friendly, outgoing person” who would “help anyone at the drop of a hat”.

And a minute’s silence is due to be held later outside The Guildhall on Armada Way.

Councillor Terri Beer, the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, said the outpouring of love and kindness shown for Keyham over the past 48 hours had been “overwhelming”.

“We all need to come together and support Keyham to recover from this tragedy,” she added. “This will be a moment for us to unite, reflect and remember those we have lost.”

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