Suffolk: Dozens of gun licences revoked over public safety concerns

FEARS for public safety have led to 45 gun licence holders having their permits revoked over the last two years, Suffolk police have said.

Thirty-six people, aged between 19 and 86, had their licences taken away during 2010 and 2011 as they were considered a danger to public safety or peace.

A further nine, aged between 34 and 85, had their permits revoked as they were said to be of “unstable mind”.

A total of 21,480 people in the county currently hold licences for 54,112 guns - 41,619 shotguns and 12,493 firearms.

The figures were revealed in a reply to a Freedom of Information request.

Suffolk Constabulary stressed safety is paramount and there is strict vetting procedure before licences are issued. Rigorous checks are also carried out on existing permit holders.

The police’s reassurances came after two high-profile multiple tragedies involving licensed gun-holders over an 18-month period.

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On New Year’s Day three women from the same family were found shot dead in County Durham. Their killer Michael Atherton, 42, died when he turned the gun on himself. Atherton was licensed to own six firearms.

In June 2010 Derrick Bird killed 12 people in Cumbria before shooting himself. The 52-year-old also held a gun licence.

Suffolk Constabulary’s firearms services manager Richard Kennett: “People hold shotguns and firearms for various reasons both as part of their profession or for recreational purposes.

“All applicants for the grant and renewal of certificates are subjected to a thorough vetting process.

“We have a team of specialist firearms enquiry officers who conduct home visits and interviews with all certificate applicants at the time of initial grant, at the point of renewal or in the case of shotgun renewal applicants who are subjected to a risk assessment whereby some renewal applicants are visited at point of renewal and others are visited later during the life of their certificates.

“We visit certificate holders at any time where information is received that may bring in question their suitability to possess firearms.

“We also use a national computer system to manage firearms licensing, the National Firearms Licensing Management System.

“This system is linked to the Police National Computer and automatically informs the firearms licensing team if a certificate holder is arrested for any offence across the country.

“Where a certificate holder is brought to the adverse attention of the police, enquires will be made and where necessary the guns and certificate will be taken into police possession.

“Where there is evidence that the certificate holder represents a danger to public safety the certificate will be revoked.”

There were a total of 60 licence revocations in Suffolk in 2010 and 2011.

The remaining 15 confiscations related to nine problems with guns and six people who had committed crimes.