An independent inquiry has begun into why a man who shot himself after killing three women was a licensed holder of firearms despite previous issues regarding his mental health.

Forty-two-year-old taxi driver Michael Atherton used a legally registered shotgun in the incident in Peterlee, County Durham, on New Year?s Day.

Guns belonging to Atherton had been confiscated by Durham Police in 2008 after he threatened to shoot himself following a domestic argument, but were later returned after he told police he had no intention of harming himself.

Durham Police assistant chief constable Michael Banks commented: ?The circumstances surrounding these tragic deaths did not require mandatory referral, but the force voluntarily referred this matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) at an early stage.

?In the interests of the public, and especially the relatives and friends of the deceased, it was felt there were certain issues relating to the granting of Mr Atherton?s firearms licences which would benefit from independent scrutiny.

?Our role now is to enable the IPCC to carry out its enquiries and, in due course, await the outcome of its findings.?

Despite calls from some MPs for the home storage of guns to be outlawed and for increased involvement of the medical profession in the licensing process panel, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said that the Government had no plans to revisit UK gun laws.

The rest of this article appears in the 11th January issue of Shooting Times.

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