Concern at backlog in records of gun owners
Gun and shooting clubs have raised concerns after police revealed they had fallen far behind processing thousands of shotgun licence transfers.
Following a Freedom of Information request by The Herald, Devon and Cornwall Police admitted that as of September 17 it had around 6,250 gun transfer amendments which had yet to be added to its electronic records.
Each time a shotgun is bought or sold, both the seller and the new owner are obliged to register the weapon with the police, informing them of their licences and what weapons they hold.
However, some gun owners contacted The Herald claiming the records held by Devon and Cornwall Police were months, and even on some occasions years, out of date.
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One Devon shotgun owner who asked to remain anonymous said: “I was recently checking on my records and found the police still had a gun I sold nearly two years ago next to my name.
“I asked around and found that I wasn’t the only one. The records of many other licensed gun holders weren’t up to date.
“It’s very worrying to me that they effectively didn’t know who owned what guns. What if something had happened with a gun I owned two years ago and they came to my door demanding I explain?
“These documents are important – legitimate and responsible shotgun owners understand that. Which is why I’m so concerned the police aren’t up to date with their records.
“I also know of four shotgun owners who have had guns on their certificate that they’ve never owned.”
Devon and Cornwall Police claimed the paper-based notifications of guns which have been sold on to other people were “held in a format that is easy to search should they be required for accounting purposes”.
Devon and Cornwall Police said there were 30,798 shotgun certificate holders in the force area – a number that changes “daily” – and its aim was to renew certificates before their expiry date. It insisted there were “no backlogs in this area of work”.
However, it accepted it had fallen behind on paperwork which noted which guns have been bought and sold to other licence holders.
The force said: “On average, the Force received around 50 gun amendment request every day and these and the other outstanding transactions are being processed as quickly as possible.
“The paper to electronic process in place does not increase the risk to the public and it is estimated that all transfer notifications will be moved to the electronic record sometime in October.
“The cyclical nature of shotgun renewals means there have been peak periods of high demand for certificates and this by its very nature has contributed to the outstanding work we are addressing.”
The force also admitted that the Firearm Licensing Unit had “been under constant scrutiny as part of normal management practices” and that “measures were taken to improve efficiency in processing large volumes of applications for renewals in particular.”
The force revealed that “six extra staff were temporarily employed to manage the demand” during the peak period.
Another shotgun owner who is involved in a Devon gun club – and who asked not to be named – said she and other members were also aware of the backlog.
She said: “It’s an absolute disgrace and I’m slightly surprised to hear the police say they’re up to date with the transaction amendments.
“I know of a member who very recently was contacted by police asking about a gun which he had actually sold quite a while back.
“It leaves gun owners in a tricky position.
“Some gun owners regularly trade them in, purchase another gun.
“That the police can’t tell the public that gun X, Y and Z is owned by person A, B and C does not inspire confidence.”