Britain’s gun laws could be tightened after Plymouth shooting - but what are they?

Jake Davison killed five people in a gun rampage in Plymouth in August 2021  (PA Media)
Jake Davison killed five people in a gun rampage in Plymouth in August 2021 (PA Media)

Gun laws could be tightened in Britain to ensure that the failings leading up to the Plymouth shooting can never happen again.

Jake Davison, 22, murdered his mother before roaming the streets with a pump-action shotgun and killing a three-year-old girl, her father, and two other passersby in August 2021.

An inquest into Davison’s five victims concluded on Monday (February 21) and the jury was highly critical of Devon and Cornwall Police’s firearms licensing unit.

The families of the victims of shooter Jake Davison have said gun ownership should be hard to get, and should be seen as a “privilege and not a right”.

They want laws, which currently date back to 1968, to be “urgently rewritten” to stop potentially dangerous people from being able to access weapons.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has also called for changes, as has the Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Will Kerr, as well as Davison’s family.

But what are the gun laws now?

How strict are gun laws in the UK?

Under the Firearms Act 1968, individuals must be assessed by their local police force and judged not to pose a threat to public safety.

The age at which a person can possess a firearm differs across UK regions. In England, Wales, and Scotland, anyone aged 14 and above may own and use a firearm if they hold a valid certificate. In Northern Ireland, a person must be at least 18 to possess a firearm, though over-16s can use one in the company of an adult who holds a licence.

People who have been given a prison sentence of three years or more are banned from possessing a firearm or ammunition.

How many Brits own guns now?

Nearly 540,000 Brits are licensed to own a gun in England and Wales, with 522,627 shotgun certificates and 151,218 firearm certificates currently held.

What do victims’ families and police want changed?

Families of victims, as well as police chiefs, want the law rewritten to make it harder for someone to obtain a firearms certificate. At present, the law states that a firearm or shotgun certificate “shall be granted” unless specific circumstances are met.

They want a requirement enforced that states someone should show “good reason” for wanting to own a gun as well as a stricter vetting procedure.

The IOPC said the Home Office should add autism spectrum disorder to the list of relevant medical conditions in police guidance, and also backed the removal of any legal distinction between shotgun and firearms certificates.

Nick Stanage, representing Jake Davison’s older brother and sister Zoe and Josh, told Senior Coroner Ian Arrow at the inquest of the Plymouth shootings: “The previous jury made robust findings yesterday.

“Today, my clients ask that those findings reinforce your own resolve to make an effective ‘preventing future deaths report’ arising from all of these inquests.

“The previous jury’s findings highlighted ‘catastrophic’ failures in local and national policing. Plainly, that jury found that all of these deaths were obviously avoidable.

“There have been lessons learned in previous years, which simply do not appear to have been properly addressed.”

Are there any guns that are banned in the UK?

Yes, some guns are completely prohibited. Handguns were outlawed after the 1996 Dunblane massacre, Britain’s deadliest shooting, in which 16 children were killed and one teacher.

Most low-powered air weapons are also not licensed.