Plymouth Coroner Demands Urgent Reforms to Gun Licensing System

by Gun Control Network on 20-03-2023

We welcome the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report and recommendations following the horrific shootings in Keyham in August 2021. A devastating indictment of enduring government complacency and underfunding, they set out clear reforms required to keep the public safe.

Gun owners are only 1% of the population yet they have exercised a disproportionate degree of control over government policy in this area for decades. Successive multiple shootings in Hungerford, Dunblane, Cumbria, Durham, Shropshire, Surrey, East Sussex, Plymouth, Skye and, most recently, Epsom have led to a range of reports from various agencies, including the HMIC and IOPC, that contain recommendations for improving the process of firearm licensing. However, real change has always been resisted by the shooting lobby, including the influential British Association for Shooting and Conservation. Now, at last, maybe they are losing control and a proper, robust, firearms licensing system looks possible — from the next government if not from this one. 

The Private Members Firearms Bill, currently going through Parliament and discussed in Committee last Wednesday, is the Government’s attempt to send the misleading message that they are ‘doing something’ about gun licensing. They are not. The Bill deals only with miniature rifle ranges and ammunition – it does not address the many real problems, particularly the funding of the firearm licensing system.

By allowing the fees for a 5-year licence to remain at £80, the licensing process has become a sham. £16 a year for as many shotguns as you like is a scandalously low sum.  It has meant that:

  • the  chronically underfunded licensing system is not fit for purpose despite taxpayer subsidy;
  • police officers have been withdrawn from front line duties in order to deal with the backlog of gun licence applications;
  • investigations into applicants’ suitability have become a 5-yearly clerical process rather than a vital public safety priority;
  • untrained and inexperienced Firearms Licensing Officers are averse to refusing or revoking licences and err on the side of leniency rather than public safety;
  • Home Office Guidance has been ignored and overlooked.

For twelve years GCN has been calling for full cost recovery as required by the Treasury, but our demands have been ignored by successive governments. Various flawed consultations have been conducted that have given the Home Office a fig leaf to cover their failure to reform the system.

The reforms needed are clear and urgent.  They are also costly so licence fees must increase to cover the true cost of the whole licensing system:

  • All lethal guns must be subject to the same rigorous licensing.  Shotguns are potentially just as lethal as rifles and should be brought into Sec 1 of the 1968 Firearms Act. Applicants must prove their suitability and have a good reason for each and every gun.
  • Licences should last for 2 years, not 5 as they currently do.
  • Household members and significant others should be consulted about an applicant’s suitability.
  • The social media accounts of applicants should be investigated routinely.
  • Firearm licensing units should be proactive and investigative, undertaking sample checks of licensees and actively monitoring them.
  • A ‘gun line’ should be established to provide opportunity for anyone to register concern about the behaviour of a gun owner.

Gill Marshall-Andrews Chair of GCN says:


“We will hold the Government’s feet to the fire and ensure that these reforms are not kicked into the long grass as has happened so often in the past. We know what needs to be done and it won’t cost the Government any money. The licensing system must be funded by those who wish to own guns and they must pay the full cost of this.”


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