Firearms Control: Supplementary Government Response to the Committee's Third Report of Session 2010-12 - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Appendix: Supplementary Government response

Letter from Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, to the Chair of the Committee, 19 December 2012

Further to my evidence yesterday I wanted to update you on progress in implementing the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee's Third Report on Firearms Control.

As you know, the Government is committed to the actions set out in its response to the Committee's wide-ranging recommendations, and I can report good progress made over recent months, helping to further strengthen our approach to firearms control and protect public safety, while ensuring the controls in place are practical and proportionate.

Progress has been made on introducing revised and updated firearms guidance for the police. This is a large undertaking as the Home Office guidance is comprehensive and detailed, presenting complex firearms law as clearly as possible. We are about to issue the first three chapters on line, so that the guidance is readily accessible and can be easily updated, and we will continue to issue further chapters in the New Year. We have consulted ACPO and other stakeholders as part of the process to bring in the new guidance.

Consultation took place over the summer on proposals around the importation and supply of illegal firearms. Individuals responsible for making firearms available to other criminals through importation or supply, regardless of whether they use the weapons themselves, should face tough and appropriate sentences. Following the consultation earlier this year, we are planning to increase the maximum sentence for the existing importation offence, and to create a new offence of possession for sale or transfer of prohibited firearms or ammunition. We are looking to legislate as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

We are working with ACPO to bring in stronger guidance on how reports of domestic violence should be treated by police considering firearms applications. Although each case is considered on its merits, we will discuss with ACPO amendment of the guidance to make it clear that it is not appropriate to issue a firearm or shotgun certificate where there is a history or successive reports of domestic abuse. The proposal that the Canadian practice of consulting the partners of firearms applicants should be introduced here needs greater scrutiny and analysis of the evidence base, to establish whether such a measure would reduce the risk to domestic violence victims as intended.

Although the police now routinely contact each applicant's GP to enable them to raise any concerns they may have about the individual having access to a firearm or shot gun, we are continuing to work with the British Medical Association (BMA) and ACPO to see if the process could be strengthened further. My officials will meet with the BMA and ACPO in the New Year to discuss a recent proposal by the BMA to change the GP consultation process.

On deactivated weapons and whether further regulation is needed to apply the tougher standard introduced in 1995 retrospectively to all deactivated firearms, there is a need for further analysis on whether the evidence merits such a change. My officials are in discussion with ACPO on this issue, informed by reports from the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS).

A single application form for firearms and shot guns has been designed and is due to be introduced early next year. The question of whether to address the peaks and troughs of firearms licensing, which was an issue raised by the Committee, was considered by the ACPO Firearms Licensing working group earlier this year, with the consensus being that the legislation necessary to effect change would not be a proportionate response as the problem would diminish over time.

On the issue of whether the firearms prohibition measures should apply to suspended sentences as they do now to custodial sentences, work has begun with ACPO and the Ministry of Justice to explore this. There would be a need for legislation to implement such a proposal, and further work will take place next year.

ACPO have put forward a revised proposal on new firearms fees which is under consideration, and this is being taken forward in conjunction with work by ACPO to introduce e-commerce to firearms licensing, thereby making the licensing process more efficient and effective.

I hope this update is helpful and I will write separately on your question regarding Tasers which you raised with me yesterday.

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