Changes to gun law ownership introduced after Plymouth shooting


The Home Office has introduced new statutory guidance to tighten up existing laws on gun ownership that sets out a framework for police to follow when considering applications.

No one will be given a firearms licence unless the police have reviewed information from a registered doctor setting out whether or not the applicant has any relevant medical history – including mental health, neurological conditions or substance abuse.

For the first time, police will be legally required to have regard to the guidance, to help improve standards and consistency across forces in the UK.


Following the recent shooting in Plymouth where five people were killed, the Home Secretary made clear that the guidance will be kept under close review, and updated with any further lessons learned from the ongoing inquiries into these murders.

From November, individuals will be required to provide a medical pro forma alongside their application, filled out and signed by a registered doctor. The doctor providing the medical information must be registered with the General Medical Council and have a licence to practise.


The statutory guidance also sets out other areas the police should review before granting a licence – including examining an applicant’s social media, financial history, interviewing associates, or checking with domestic violence or public protection units. The importance of this is stressed in cases where the police consider that more evidence is needed before authorising a licence.

Background checks which can be conducted by the police are already extensive, spanning everything from criminal convictions and previous run-ins with the law, to evidence of domestic turmoil, unmanaged debt or even dishonesty.


Existing laws also require a home visit by the police for first-time applicants, to ensure they have utmost confidence in an individual’s suitability to own a gun with no risk to public. Two credible referees for a firearm and one for a shotgun must be provided before a licence can be issued.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for firearms licensing, Chief Constable Debbie Tedds, said: ‘Police forces are responsible for issuing firearms certificates to individuals and will only do so after their application has been assessed by a dedicated team of experts, a robust process of background checks is completed and the individual meets criteria set out in the Home Office’s national legislation.’