Changes to Firearms Licensing. What would you do?

Finch

Well-Known Member
After the tragic events in Plymouth, it is inevitable there will be calls for a tightening up on firearms licensing. Lets be honest, most people (including, most politicians and most of the media) know next to nothing about firearms, or current licensing regulations. We do, because we at the sharp end.

So, without speculating on the Plymouth case before due process has had a chance to do its job, or intruding on the grief of those affected who are still coming to terms with it, what in more general terms, is our collective take on the current state of firearms licensing and regulations and how do we think the law and process could be improved? Knee-jerk legislation is rarely good or useful legislation.

My view is that, broadly the system is well intentioned and for the most part effective. But there are areas of dysfunction. One concerns the assessment of mental health and its impact on gun ownership. To me that area is all very knee-jerk and emotive. For one thing, as I mentioned in the locked thread, I believe the current approach lacks nuance and is too much of a blunt instrument. It discourages otherwise well adjusted and responsible FAC holders from seeking professional help should they become overwhelmed by life's events and succumb to emotional problems. No one is immune to such things, especially in this pressurised society we have created. As someone said on the other thread, an MOT only certifies a vehicle fit and serviceable on the day of issue. It may be valid for a year but it can't guarantee some defect won't develop before expiry which makes the vehicle unsafe. Firearms licensing as it stands seems tailor-made to ensure FAC holders are more likely to bottle up problems and try to tough them out rather than seek help. I've always said, it's not people who seek help for emotional or psychological problems you need to worry about, it's those who don't.

And do we place too much pressure on GPs to assess the mental health of patients they may not have seen for years? Not everyone who is suffering emotional problems is a danger to themselves or anyone else. The vast majority are not. Are GPs always the best people to make that assessment and where they are not, who is and how could it be handled better?

So (a), I think the whole issue of mental health needs to be de-sensationalised and treated more rationally. How could this be done so that it filters more effectively?

And (b), the police and firearms licensing generally need more resources, more expertise and less political interference. It is they who should be telling politicians where improvements can be made, not being left implementing back-of-a-fag-packet initiatives politicians have drawn up in a hurry to keep the media happy.

To do that FA licensing personnel need to be better trained or more knowledgeable about firearms from the start. Too many lack first hand experience. Partly because, as in all arms of government, police personnel tend to be promoted sideways and appointments are filled from within instead of seeking expertise from outside. How could this be changed?

And the system needs to be better resourced. Personally I'd happily pay double the fee for renewals, or more, IF I thought that the money was all going back into firearms licensing and being used to make the system function more efficiently and effectively.

No regulatory system can ever be perfect and it cannot anticipate and prevent all undesirable outcomes. So bearing that in mind, if it was down to us, and if we were consulted (which of course we won't be) how would we improve the system?
 
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mealiejimmy

Well-Known Member
What I definitely don't want, and don't think is justified, but fear may be an outcome of this latest tragedy is annual medicals for certificate holders.
Assessment of risk from mental health issues is notoriously difficult and major mistakes are not uncommon - even for people with much higher levels of knowledge and skill in this specialist subject than a normal GP
No system is perfect, but I would class the current system as "fit for purpose"
IMHO, 4 serious failures in 35 years with around 225,000 certificate holders is not evidence of a system that needs much alteration.

Cheers

Bruce
 

Woodsmoke

Well-Known Member
His certificate was returned after temporary revocation following allegations of assault. My own view is that offered the opportunity to scrutinise every aspect of his life then. Perhaps that would've thrown something up? Perhaps not. It's not a perfect system, but I think it's as good as it needs to be
 

zambezi

Well-Known Member
First up, I do not think that decisions should be made on the circumstances of one event. Rather, what have been common or similar features of other [legally-held] firearms incidents.

In this case, the perpetrator had mental health issues which, it is reported, his mother raised to the NHS on three occasions with nil engagement. Why no engagement/assessment? Also, the perpetrator had published violent threats online. I do not know when he made those posts, but if there was forewarning there...

In a previous case [chap went amok with .22LR] I seem to recall that threatening behaviour had previously precipitated the removal of his firearms. Why were they returned? How was his state adjudicated?

Peer-regulation. Thorny one and hard to turn into a concrete proposal. Many modernly worded FACs now require that holder is a member of a shooting club and that they attend at least three times a year. Behaviour-review both in terms of safety and demeanor can be peer-assessed on those days. Perhaps up the attendance threshold to 5? It is in all our interests to prevent the next shooting if we want unfettered access to our stalking, competitions and land management.

One last point: the Plymouth chap used a shotgun. The criteria for access to a shotgun is lower than that for a rifle. The ideas above really only apply to rifles. But the public won't differentiate and I doubt politicians give a fig about the difference. Anything we can do to be seen to tighten this up inhouse may avert knee-jerk legislation.
 

Sampo

Well-Known Member
Rather than changes to Firearm licensing, a risk based profile based on feedback from GPs, police incidents, insurance claims etc could be used to limit access to certain mateials/ services to groups of people who show instability with their actions, including but not limited to drugs, alcohol, support for any extreme ideologies which support. encourage violence or lack of intolerance etc. This could then be used to limit the ability of one to own firearms, larger machette/ axes/ swords etc, renting larger vehicles or jobs that involve public safety such as crane operator, HGV drivers, food/ water processing or treatment centres etc. I am always of the opinion that a firearm or a knife or a car is simply a tool and when one becomes unavailable, those seeking to cause harm will turn to other available means as it has happened in the past. Unfortunately this is the big brother approach which most of us won't be happy with but in the modern world, where public safety is concerned, unfortunately adding more regulations to firearm licensing may not be the answer apart from killing off a much loved sport.

Centralising FAC/ SG/ Explosive License issue for consistent rules across the country, limitations to hold firearms at gun clubs for members who are either below a certain age or in the first 3 years of owing a SG/ Firearm, home visits for license holders who shoot say less than 5 times a year etc could be considered. Unfortunately any of the chosen measures will be unpopular.
 

mealiejimmy

Well-Known Member
It should be added that he went through an anger management course as a condition for getting his cert and gun back.

Zambezi,
By all accounts it was a section 1 pump action shotgun held on an FAC rather than a 3 shot max shotgun held on an SGC
Any changes which happen as a result of this tragic incident are much more likely to be directed towards the applicant/certificate holder than the weapons they wish to acquire or already possess.
The suitability standard for the applicant is the same for both FAC and SGC

Cheers

Bruce
 

Liveonce

Well-Known Member
What I definitely don't want, and don't think is justified, but fear may be an outcome of this latest tragedy is annual medicals for certificate holders.
Assessment of risk from mental health issues is notoriously difficult and major mistakes are not uncommon - even for people with much higher levels of knowledge and skill in this specialist subject than a normal GP
No system is perfect, but I would class the current system as "fit for purpose"
IMHO, 4 serious failures in 35 years with around 225,000 certificate holders is not evidence of a system that needs much alteration.

Cheers

Bruce

Think their is more like half a million plus gun openers in the U.K.

No system can ever be absolutely perfect that such a tragic event could not happen again.
and if he could not of used a gun who is to say he would not have used a machete or sword.
 

London Jaeger

Well-Known Member
I am sure there will be a enquiry in due course and at the moment I am only reading what everyone else is in the papers, but there seems to of been a serious failing by Devon and Cornwall Police in the returning of his Shotgun License. The killer had a shotgun Cert on which he had a 'pump-action shotgun' (to quote the telegraph). His Shotgun Cert was taken away from him by the police in December of last year after an 'alleged' assault. It was then returned to him after attending an anger management course.

As we all know, shotgun certificates will not be given or renewed if the chief officer of police has a reason that you should not be allowed to have a shotgun under the Firearms Act. It would seem the failure here is not with the legislation, but that Devon and Cornwall Police were to quick to return the shotgun cert to this clearly disturbed individual.

Whilst it is speculation, I would not be surprised that considering the timing and COVID, there were some very overstretch and over worked FAO in the area dealing with a backlog of renewals and grants caused by the on and off lockdowns last year and the resulting suspensions of licenses being granted. This in turn could of led to the appropriate consideration and checks not being undertaken in this case with tragic consequences.
 

Liveonce

Well-Known Member
It should be added that he went through an anger management course as a condition for getting his cert and gun back

Cheers

Bruce


I went on an speeding awareness course, does it mean I have never been speeding since… no.

Stupid idea to use the course as justification to return his guns, any aggressive behaviour should be sufficient justification to revoke a licence for a minimum of three years.
 

mealiejimmy

Well-Known Member
Agreed, but everyone knows that you gotta do courses that tick the right boxes so that those in authority can produce "evidence" that they tried to do something.
I attended a 3 month course on decision making, but after the first month I couldn't decide if I should carry on with it :)

Cheers

Bruce
 

NullMac

Well-Known Member
On the back of this, nothing. Police screwed up in assuming that attending an anger management course would resolve the issue.

Otherwise I have several proposals to reduce needless paperwork.

Merge firearms and shotgun certs into one.

Authorisation to hold gun for full term of certificate and trade at will ie no one for one variations.

Group rifles into calibre classes eg "medium centre fire" 6.5CM, 308, 708, 243 etc "small centre fire" 222 223 22-250 243. Authorised to hold x in the class, again can trade freely with notifications to police on trading.

Authorisation to hold x shotguns for specific purposes. So no whacking deer with a shotgun just cos you have one without specific authorisation. Limits the ability to create a collection for the sake of it.

Thinking is that there is a lot of paperwork for everyone without any real increase in safety for the public but wastes police time and places unnecessary restrictions on shooters. If I am safe with a 308 why do I need approval to sell it and get a 708 etc. Police time is freed to focus on the things that matter ie grants or not.
 

mealiejimmy

Well-Known Member
Merging firearms and shotguns into one cert would need a change in the primary legislation (The Firearms Act) - that's not happening any time soon
There is no doubt that the administration of firearms licensing could be simplified and made more efficient.
Getting rid of one for one variations would be a good start
Northern Ireland already has a "calibre class" system - maybe someone from the 6 counties can let us know how well it works

Cheers

Bruce
 

finnbear270

Well-Known Member
I would like to ask a certain so called journo, If they knew the difference between a firearm certificate & a shotgun certificate, ... The difference between a pump action shotgun & a standard action, Why the obvious badgering of an MP for information he clearly did not & could not have, & personal agenda tilted toward demonisation of lawful firearms use, for example " A gamekeeper will have an ordinary side by side"
 

Pete1774

Well-Known Member
After the tragic events in Plymouth, it is inevitable there will be calls for a tightening up on firearms licensing. Lets be honest, most people (including, most politicians and most of the media) know next to nothing about firearms, or current licensing regulations. We do, because we at the sharp end.

So, without speculating on the Plymouth case before due process has had a chance to do its job, or intruding on the grief of those affected who are still coming to terms with it, what in more general terms, is our collective take on the current state of firearms licensing and regulations and how do we think the law and process could be improved? Knee-jerk legislation is rarely good or useful legislation.

My view is that, broadly the system is well intentioned and for the most part effective. But there are areas of dysfunction. One concerns the assessment of mental health and its impact on gun ownership. To me that area is all very knee-jerk and emotive. For one thing, as I mentioned in the locked thread, I believe the current approach lacks nuance and is too much of a blunt instrument. It discourages otherwise well adjusted and responsible FAC holders from seeking professional help should they become overwhelmed by life's events and succumb to emotional problems. No one is immune to such things, especially in this pressurised society we have created. As someone said on the other thread, an MOT only certifies a vehicle fit and serviceable on the day of issue. It may be valid for a year but it can't guarantee some defect won't develop before expiry which makes the vehicle unsafe. Firearms licensing as it stands seems tailor-made to ensure FAC holders are more likely to bottle up problems and try to tough them out rather than seek help. I've always said, it's not people who seek help for emotional or psychological problems you need to worry about, it's those who don't.

And do we place too much pressure on GPs to assess the mental health of patients they may not have seen for years? Not everyone who is suffering emotional problems is a danger to themselves or anyone else. The vast majority are not. Are GPs always the best people to make that assessment and where they are not, who is and how could it be handled better?

So (a), I think the whole issue of mental health needs to be de-sensationalised and treated more rationally. How could this be done so that it filters more effectively?

And (b), the police and firearms licensing generally need more resources, more expertise and less political interference. It is they who should be telling politicians where improvements can be made, not being left implementing back-of-a-fag-packet initiatives politicians have drawn up in a hurry to keep the media happy.

To do that FA licensing personnel need to be better trained or more knowledgeable about firearms from the start. Too many lack first hand experience. Partly because, as in all arms of government, police personnel tend to be promoted sideways and appointments are filled from within instead of seeking expertise from outside. How could this be changed?

And the system needs to be better resourced. Personally I'd happily pay double the fee for renewals, or more, IF I thought that the money was all going back into firearms licensing and being used to make the system function more efficiently and effectively.

No regulatory system can ever be perfect and it cannot anticipate and prevent all undesirable outcomes. So bearing that in mind, if it was down to us, and if we were consulted (which of course we won't be) how would we improve the system?
First let me state that before retiring a few years back I was a Community Psychiatric Nurse so I do have a little professional knowledge of mental health issues. Whenever some tabloid hack mentions mental health I groan! The press seems to think mental health is like a broken leg; you either have it or you don't. You are either totally sane or a potential psychopathic killer with a blood lust. The other problem is that, in my experience, most GPs have only a basic understanding of mental health problems so are not necessarily the best people to make decisions re firearms. A face to face apointment with a GP is typically 10 minutes and although its enough do decide if the patient has a depressive illness, or other relevant condition, its not anything like enough time to uderstand the context and background to the problem and to assess the degree of risk the person may pose to himself or the wider public, if indeed that particular MH problem poses any risk at all. Secondly, how recently has the GP seen the patient for whom he is writing the police report? I live a part of the UK that requires a medical report in order to get an FAC or SGC. My own GP kindly wrote a report for me without having ever met me! Its seems that the medical report system is in most cases little more than a box ticking exercise. Yes it may highlight a serious current problem but often MH problems vary over time. Someone who was suffering from a mild depressive episode when he last saw the GP 6 months ago could today be over the problem but likewise could have deteriorated without them contacting medical services. But even that does not necessarily equate with an increased risk to himself or the public. I would agree that there is certainly a need for some sort of medical input before the granting of SGCs or FACs but the current system is not only patchy and not fair on GPs but it not fit for purpose.
 

Foxyboy43

Well-Known Member
First up, I do not think that decisions should be made on the circumstances of one event. Rather, what have been common or similar features of other [legally-held] firearms incidents.

In this case, the perpetrator had mental health issues which, it is reported, his mother raised to the NHS on three occasions with nil engagement. Why no engagement/assessment? Also, the perpetrator had published violent threats online. I do not know when he made those posts, but if there was forewarning there...

In a previous case [chap went amok with .22LR] I seem to recall that threatening behaviour had previously precipitated the removal of his firearms. Why were they returned? How was his state adjudicated?

Peer-regulation. Thorny one and hard to turn into a concrete proposal. Many modernly worded FACs now require that holder is a member of a shooting club and that they attend at least three times a year. Behaviour-review both in terms of safety and demeanor can be peer-assessed on those days. Perhaps up the attendance threshold to 5? It is in all our interests to prevent the next shooting if we want unfettered access to our stalking, competitions and land management.

One last point: the Plymouth chap used a shotgun. The criteria for access to a shotgun is lower than that for a rifle. The ideas above really only apply to rifles. But the public won't differentiate and I doubt politicians give a fig about the difference. Anything we can do to be seen to tighten this up inhouse may avert knee-jerk legislation.
Hmmm. This is a particularly interesting one in that in NI all firearms are covered by a single FAC - this includes basic airguns (like even Gats - yes!) right through shotguns of all types, to pistols .22lr and upwards for all c/f calibres, right through to rifles from 22LR upto whatever in c/f providing you can make an acceptable case which may have to include possession of DSC1 or membership of a registered club. From many club perspectives it is also de rigeur for applicants to produce a recent CRO check - which personally I applaud. This all being so I think I could say with some justification that in NI we have even tighter restrictions than those much vaunted ones in the mainland - accepting of course that paradoxically we still have pistols (thank heavens!).
To be honest I never saw the licensing need/case for distinguishing between shotguns and rifles - tragically the recent events have shown that in terms of lethality they are both deadly, and, if I may, to be absolutely clinical about it, the madman will not be bothered about distance when all they want to do is create a bloodbath.
Perhaps an acceptable change, if as expected, change is indeed demanded, is to suggest movement to the NI position? Yes, it is slow but from what I read on this site that is not at all unusual so maybe, just maybe, the shooting community and their many representatives might, for once, wish to take the initiative in any of the inevitable discussions with HMG. I know that this will be seen as heresy in some corners but it is my considered view that we as a responsible community simply must offer something other than a “centurion square” in light of these most recent horrific events. Anyone who thinks not should look again at the photograph of that little child and her father, it behoves us all to look into our hearts and offer some sort of solution.
🦊🦊
 

Bavarianbrit

Well-Known Member
I would propose a test to prove non useage of proscribed drugs as many companies now require as they can lead to irrational behaviour. With 25K SD members I am sure statistically some will have used them and therefore will not agree as it would be too close to home.
 

Foxyboy43

Well-Known Member
Merging firearms and shotguns into one cert would need a change in the primary legislation (The Firearms Act) - that's not happening any time soon
There is no doubt that the administration of firearms licensing could be simplified and made more efficient.
Getting rid of one for one variations would be a good start
Northern Ireland already has a "calibre class" system - maybe someone from the 6 counties can let us know how well it works

Cheers

Bruce
I am not terribly familiar with the GB firearms legislation but I would be surprised if it did not provide “vires” (legislative power) to do this. Furthermore I suspect that the likely growing wave of calls for something “to be seen to be done” would result in such Primary Enactment being rushed through parliament in pretty short order. My concern is that such action might also include in tandem more draconian measures - e.g. banning of pump-action and semi-auto shotguns (and rimfire rifles?) in much the same way as pistols and semi-auto c/f rifles were banned in the past - classic hot on the heels ”something being seen to be done” action, following similar tragedies.
🦊🦊
 

Fabnosh

Well-Known Member
There are some really good points made above but I suspect that whilst the D&C police will get hauled over the coals, and rightly so, and there may be some consideration of enhancing the current medical certs bit, I suspect the focus will fall on pump action shotguns much as is was on semi auto and then pistols after other shootings. It’s a really easy target to announce something is being done.

FN
 

Finch

Well-Known Member
Thinking is that there is a lot of paperwork for everyone without any real increase in safety for the public but wastes police time and places unnecessary restrictions on shooters. If I am safe with a 308 why do I need approval to sell it and get a 708 etc. Police time is freed to focus on the things that matter ie grants or not.
Definitely agree with this. When resources are scarce bureaucracy should be rigorously streamlined. That it is not is a major cultural failing that affects all areas of government.
 
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