Why are we campaigning?
We strongly believe that Kelly, Ava and Lexi would still be alive today if a robust gun application system was in place, not simply guidelines and this system was constant across all police jurisdictions. There are a number of gaps in the gun application made, leading up to their tragic deaths, which may have signalled a potential issue and together could have prevented what happened on 29 March 2020.
… As was the case in Plymouth.
… As was the case in Hungerford and Dunblane over 25 years ago.
Yet still, there is resistance.
We want to prevent future tragedies from taking place.
How are we campaigning?
We are calling for the following to take place:
Currently gun licence reviews are carried out every five years. This needs to be changed and reviewed more frequently given how much can happen and change in the space of five years for examples, episodes of depression, developing drug habits, financial difficulties. We are proposing this is changed to every two years. However, if an individual wants to change their licence for example from a hand gun to a shotgun, then a full review should be carried out
Historically a full medical was conducted with the GP in person, but due to a lack of resources this changed to just the completion of a form, which is then processed presumably by a professional who has no contact or knowledge of the applicant. Furthermore, in Robert Needham’s case, the application process was only partially completed and yet still a licence was issued.
We believe we need to go back to a full medical and a conversation (either face to face or on video chat) which could be paid for by the applicant to cover the GP’s time. This allows there to be a face to discussion as well as assessing the mental health and stability of the patient.
In our case, Robert Needham had four episodes of depression on his record and three of those we believe were treated with medication. One of those episodes led to a consultation with a psychiatrist in Secondary Care where Kelly’s fiancé admitted to thoughts of being “better off dead”.
Whilst the police state ‘lots of people with depression have a gun’, we feel strongly that this needs closer scrutiny and monitoring. If gun holders regularly suffer with their mental health, enough to seek medical help and medication, then their gun licence should be reviewed. The period of escalation which can occur and the damage and trauma as a result of that is surely worth this type of review.
Currently if you have a long-term condition and work in certain professions for example as a pilot, then a flag is put onto the system so a GP is aware. This triggers the sharing of information (see 5). These same flags should be used for gun licence holders. In Robert Needham’s case, as a result of changes to gun licence guidelines, a flag was initially input, then removed and then when it was to be reinstated, there was no record who had a flag in the first place. This staccato approach cost valuable information to be lost and represents another missed opportunity.
We believe information sharing between key agencies must happen in order to grant and review licences. This starts with the placing of a flag on a GPs system (see 4) for all gun licence holders. It is then incumbent on the GP to inform the police and the Home Office when changes occur to a gun holders health (see 3).
Currently, it is not mandatory to state the reason for applying for a gun or the purpose for an upgrade. We believe this should be an integral part of the licence application and the answers should be verified by looking at social media and talking to the licence holder’s family, as is the case in New Zealand. These are dangerous and deadly weapons and the application process must reflect that.
The application process should robustly include a removals process for licence holders who fail to comply with the terms of the licence or who experience a change in circumstances (see 3). This should be carried out swiftly by the police and the Home Office and should include a period when a renewal cannot occur. Equally, if further licence is granted, the agencies concerned should be satisfied, without a doubt, that the reason for the removal now ceases to exist and that this is verified by the relevant agencies, the family and social media.
The tax-payer currently subsidises the gun licence process Gun Control Network (gun-control-network.org) )his is wrong. Anyone wishing to hold a licence should be made to pay for all the necessary checks and balances which must take place. This includes the GPs time to interview an applicant, the research into renewals and removals. The cost of bringing a pet to the UK is not subsidised by the tax payer, why should owning a gun, with the potential to maim, hurt and kill be.
Guns should be kept in a facility away from the home, be this a gun club or a locked storage facility off their property. This is to prevent licence holders from having their gun to hand and to be able to use it inappropriately during an episode of anger, rage or psychosis. Random checks should be carried out to ensure this happens.
If you lie and are found out to be lying during the application process you shouldn’t be allowed to continue with the application and/or to have the licence granted. Robert Needham lied a number of times on the initial application form to request a gun and despite it stating that misinformation could result in a fine or prison sentence Robert got neither of these but did get awarded with a gun licence, which makes a mockery of the process. The peer review that was conducted stated they wouldn’t have done anything differently which is particularly concerning. We believe if you are incapable of being honest on your application and are found out to be lying, questioning your integrity, you should not be able to continue with the process.
What have we done already?
We have written to the following MPs asking for their support in parliament to change the gun licensing laws.
- Nick Gibb, Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton
- Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Selly Oak Birmingham
- Gillian Keegan, Conservative MP for Chichester
- Caroline Ansell, Conservative MP for Eastbourne
- Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central
We have met with the following MP’s to tell Kelly’s story and ask for their support to bring about changes to gun licensing laws:
- Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding
- Kim Leadbeater, Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen
- Nicola Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner
- Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary
- Sarah Jones, Member of Parliament for Croydon
- Karen Ingla-Smith, CEO of NIA
- Kit Malthouse, Minister for Policing
- Nick Hunt, Head of Firearms Policy Unit, Home Office
- The Gun Control Network
- The Ben Kinsella Trust
Following our participation in the ‘Specialist Firearms Command CPD Event’ held by the MET Police in early November 2022, we received resoundingly positive feedback from participating units in support of our campaign.
Some of the attending units included:
GP Digital Marker System
With the support of former Police Minister ‘The Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP’, our campaign helped to implement the new digital marker for GP systems. This marker should be applied to the records of everyone who holds a gun licence. Once applied to a patient’s record, it will flag that they have a firearms licence and automatically alert doctors if there has been a relevant change in their medical situation
There is still a long way to go and the digital marker system is far from perfect, and whilst there is still no formal obligation on the GP aside from using ‘reasonable endeavours’ to supported the process its highly likely that individuals will be missed.
At the request of the British Medical Association (BMA), the statutory guidance now states that doctors are responsible for providing reports of medical facts (not opinions), with the police force ultimately making the final judgement on the issuing of the firearms licence.
However, it’s a step in the right direction. We now need GP’s to properly commissioned and contracted for their crucial role in this process (at the licensee’s expense)
How can you help?
If like us, you believe the gun application process should be more robust, there are lots of small ways you can support this cause.
Donate your time:
Write to your MP and Police and Crime Commissioner (link to template letter)
Follow and support us on social media
Join us in supporting the Gun Control Network
Donate your skills
We are looking for people or businesses to work with us
We welcome any donations – no matter how small. These all add up to help us fund the Foundation’s activities