Are firearms licensing regulations adequate? Scottish Affairs Committee launches new inquiry
23 September 2022
The Scottish Affairs Committee has today launched a new inquiry examining firearms licensing in Scotland, following the recent tragedy on the Isle of Skye.
The responsibility for gun control rests with the UK Government Home Office, while policing is a devolved matter. As such, local police forces handle applications to own firearms or shotguns in Scotland.
Tighter gun controls were put in place in the late 1990s following the mass shooting in Dunblane Primary School, which remains the deadliest mass shooting in British history. In recent years this area has seen enhanced policy action, such as the publication of new statutory guidance on firearms licensing for police forces and Police Scotland calling for people to hand in unneeded and unlicensed firearms. Police forces are legally required to take into account an individual’s medical history – including mental health – when assessing applications.
However, while organisations note that the UK has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, some stakeholders such as The British Association for Shooting and Conservation have called for firearms licensing to be made smoother and easier for applicants while recognising that the priority must always be to ensure that public safety and personal wellbeing is at the heart of the firearms licensing process.
The Committee plans to hold two evidence sessions as part of this inquiry. Further details will be announced in due course.
Scottish Affairs Committee Chair, Pete Wishart MP, said:
“Following the horrific shooting on the Isle of Skye, it is timely that our Committee is looking into whether current regulations around the use of firearms are sufficient. While such events are incredibly rare, as a result of tight gun controls, it does not lessen the tragedy that the community has experienced.
“The responsible use of firearms is critical for agricultural communities. However, concern has been raised by some organisations that the firearms licensing service is plagued with delays in the processing of applications.”
Terms of reference
The Committee is inviting written submissions by Thursday 13 October. These should focus on, but not be limited to:
- How adequate are firearms licensing regulations in the UK, and in Scotland in particular?
- To what extent are firearms licensing regulations adequate and relevant to Scotland’s particular circumstances, including its agricultural communities and its strong connections with countryside sports?
- Should the process for obtaining a licence for firearms be changed (for example, to place greater emphasis on applicants’ mental health)?
Where submissions substantially refer to or discuss matters that are awaiting judgment in the courts, the Committee reserves the right to either:
- Redact (blank out) information;
- Choose not to publish those submissions.
The Committee wishes to properly respect the role of the courts, and ensure that matters awaiting judgement are not prejudiced by public comment. For more information please see: Matters sub judice - Erskine May - UK Parliament and Standing Orders: Public Business 2021 (parliament.uk) (Appendix)
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