Concern over 30% increase in guns

ANTI-GUN campaigners voiced their concern last night after figures showed the number of legally owned guns in Essex had soared by nearly 30% in five years.

ANTI-GUN campaigners voiced their concern last night after figures showed the number of legally owned guns in Essex had soared by nearly 30% in five years.

Since 2001, the number of firearms licensed has jumped from 10,712 to 13,753 while the number of shotguns in the county is now more than 47,000.

The increase has alarmed anti-gun charity International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), which called for tighter checks on those seeking permission to possess large numbers of guns.

Firearms are defined as lethal barrelled weapons of any description from which shots, bullets or other missiles can be discharged.

You may also want to watch:

Most approved rifles are designed for target shooting, hunting or vermin control.

Shotguns are covered by separate certificates but figures released by Essex Police show there are now 47,432 legally owned in the county - an increase of just 3% over the same period.

Most Read

A spokesman for IANSA said: “It's totally possible every single rifle has been carefully justified.

“But guns can end up being used illegally. Our concern is not that they are going to be used in gun grime in the sense of muggings in the street, but rather more likely seeing an increase in fatalities in domestic violence as mostly men obtain guns.

“Guns are meant to be locked in a cabinet but there are plenty of stories of police going to a home and finding the gun unlocked and out.

“Simply because you have a safe doesn't mean you're actually storing it and they can potentially be stolen and find their way on the illegal market.”

But Chris Evans, firearms supervisor for Essex Police, said the restrictions were tighter than ever and said the increase reflected the growing popularity of gun clubs.

She said: “I have been here 17 years and the tests to get a firearm have always been very stringent and there are now more in place than ever before.

“You have to have good reason for each and every firearm you request on a firearm certificate.”

She said people were allowed to have as many firearms on a license as they wanted, so long as they could justify them.

“More people are back into target shooting, there was a lull after handguns were banned in 1997 as people did not want to carry on.

“The clubs are busier than ever.”

A single firearms certificate can relate to more than just one firearm, and the number of such certificates on issue by police in Essex has increased by 10.6 % from 3,754 in 2001 to 4,151 at the end of this March.

Liz Mort, eastern region spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said shooting sports had become increasing popular, as had game consumption, which probably explained the increase in gun ownership.

She added: “Shooting sports are very popular. There are a lot of very well-run shooting clubs and shooting schools all over East Anglia.

“Shotguns particularly are used by farmers in keeping down populations of pests. Obviously, game keepers and farmers use them for foxes, especially now there is a ban on hunting.

“A gun is a very important part of a farmer's equipment. There are more illegal guns held within the M25 than the whole of the British Armed Forces.

“Getting a gun illegally has never been easier. People who want to use them illegally do not get them registered. I think the police enforce the rules absolutely correctly.”

The spokesman for IANSA has called on the Government to bring forward the creation of a national register listing the details of all those who own a gun.

“If you report a stolen car immediately, and it runs through a red light, they have the licence plate immediately and can trace it back within 10 seconds. It's a bit crazy we have much better registration for cars than guns,” he said.

He also said lessons could be learnt from the Canadian government which had made it a requirement for police to contact the partners or former partners of gun owners to provide a reference.

“It does flag up the possibility the person is not suitable to own a gun,” he said.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus