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Devon and Cornwall police ‘overly forceful’

A new report provides an interesting snapshot of gun ownership across the UK, and reveals how different police forces handle licences.

The killing of five people in Plymouth in August 2021 shocked the nation — but in the aftermath did the region’s police overreact in terms of gun licence revocation? 

The recently published UK Firearm Report revealed which areas have the highest rates of shotgun and firearms ownership, and which have the highest licence revocation rates. 

Devon and Cornwall (D&C) revoked the most licences. Firearms licensing here had been in the spotlight since the Plymouth shootings in 2021 and gun control measures were tightened, which some have seen as disproportionate. A Freedom of Information request from BASC in March 2022 revealed that, in the last three months of 2021, D&C revoked 54 shotgun licences, nine times higher than normal. 

BASC’s director of firearms Bill Harriman said there were signs that the force was beginning to fail and there had been a growing number of stories in the press about it being “overly forceful” on certificate holders. “The figures do raise serious questions about both the previous and current level of service provided by the department. An inconsistent licensing approach for such a vital lifeline to rural economies is damaging,” he told ST. 

Other findings in the report — which was compiled by Get Licensed, a security training and staffing platform — reveals that people in Kent spent more than £311,000 on their firearm and shotgun certificates between April 2022 and March 2023, more than any other police area. The Metropolitan and Essex Police forces were close behind, with £306,000 and £287,000 respectively. 

The greatest level of gun ownership, and the highest number of licences per capita, was held by the large rural area of Wales that falls under Dyfed-Powys Police — with 6,557 shotguns per 100,000 people. Norfolk was next with 6,459 and Suffolk with 5,714. 

Durham Police Force turned down the greatest percentage of licences, with 17.29% refused. Close behind was Cleveland Police with 15% refusals. West Midlands had the highest number of firearms offences.