Are thousands of gun licences being revoked, or is it just eight?

Two game shooters walking away from the camera with shotguns

Two conflicting articles in the mainstream press reporting on gun licence revocations in the wake of the Plymouth shooting has caused widespread panic and confusion in the shooting community - Credit: Emily Damment

Conflicting news coverage on the number of firearms licences being revoked in the wake of the Plymouth shooting has caused widespread confusion in the shooting community

The revelation that Plymouth shooter Jake Davison's shotgun licence had been revoked and then returned to him prior to the attack was bound to have some consequences. Whatever your views on firearms licensing, the tragic events of that day are proof that, in this case, something went very seriously wrong.

The consequence in this case turned out to be the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, ordering a review of any gun owners who have previously had their guns removed and then returned to them. This seems fair and reasonable, however, the mainstream news coverage of this development is confusing, conflicting, and is causing understandable worry within the shooting community.

On October 31, The Express ran with the alarming headline "Thousands of guns seized after August mass shooting", while just one day later, The Telegraph countered this with the headline: "Just eight gun licences revoked in wake of Plymouth shooting". 

The Express article went on the state that "a senior firearms officer with Devon and Cornwall Police said his force is collecting 40 to 50 shotguns a day from farmers, land owners and even shooting syndicates, whose members go out a couple of times a year shooting pheasants." Their source is an un-named senior firearms officer.

Conversely, The Telegraph article went on to state that "Just eight gun licences have been revoked by a police review ordered by Priti Patel in the wake of the mass shooting in Plymouth. Fewer than one per cent of the 908 owners checked by police after having their guns returned to them had their licences removed, the policing minister Kit Malthouse told MPs on Monday."

Which one is correct?
The wording used by The Express, "guns seized" as opposed to "licences revoked", is even more confusing; however, the PNLD website (an information resource of criminal justice legislation) brings clarification to this with the following statement: "The weapon may only be seized it if it is used in commission of an offence or if the licence is revoked making possession of such an offence in itself". 

Although we are more inclined to trust the coverage in The Telegraph, with its source clearly named, we are keen to clear the matter up once and for all, and so we have sent a freedom of information request to Devon and Cornwall Police Firearms Licensing department asking them to clarify exactly how many licences have been revoked since the Plymouth shooting.

We will feed back to our readers as soon as we have an answer.

BASC response
Meanwhile, BASC's head of firearms, Martin Parker, issued the following statement in response to The Express coverage: “While public safety is paramount, BASC will challenge any police force that revokes a certificate without good reason and will take that challenge all the way to court if necessary. Certificate holders across the country must not be unduly penalised because a force may have failed to follow procedures put in place to ensure guns are only in the hands of responsible people.”

The press release went on the state that: "BASC has yet to register any uptake of revocations or voluntary surrenders of firearms through our membership services and firearms enquiry team. However, work is underway behind the scenes to ensure the shooting community are not being unfairly disadvantaged.
"We are monitoring the situation closely and will be keeping members up to date."