This newspaper article highlights progress being made in the UK in relation to armed domestic violence. Although there are some inaccuracies with the description of Canada’s screening process it is a useful outline of the current situation in the UK in relation to the Disarm Domestic Violence campaign.
Thank you to the Coalition for Gun Control in Canada for providing the actual firearm licence application form (attached) so that you can see exactly what is being asked to applicants. The form was introduced with the 1995 Firearms Act and requires that applicants provide information on questions related to risk factors of violence and suicide:
Applicants are required to provide two references to confirm the information. These two references may not be the current conjugal partner and must have known the applicant for three years.
The 1995 Firearms Act also introduced a spousal notification section which requires applicants to provide contact information for current or previous (past two years) spouses or common-law partners, as well as their signature. The purpose of this provision is to notify the spouse of an individual’s intent to acquire a firearm. Spousal consent is not required for acquisition, however if a spouse has concerns, it will trigger a secondary review of the application. The form specifies that if the current or past spouses can’t sign the form, the Chief Firearms Officer is required to notify them.
Reports of domestic violence and other offences do not necessarily result in the refusal of a license but will automatically trigger a review of a gun owner’s licence. In 2009, 515 firearms licences were refused and 2,085 firearms licences were revoked. There are a variety of reasons for refusals and revocations, the most common being a court-ordered prohibition or probation. That same year 6% (29) of license refusal and 3% (61) of licence were revoked specifically because of domestic violence - data from Commission Report 2009 at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/rep-rap/2009-comm-rpt/sec5-eng.htm#e
UK: Is your ex fit to own a gun? Police will ask former partners of arms licence applicants if they have ever been violent
By James Millbank, 1 May 2011, The Daily Mail
Police will question the former partners of gun licence applicants about their mental stability under a proposed tightening of the law. Former wives, girlfriends, husbands and boyfriends will be asked if the applicant has ever displayed violent traits or personality flaws. If they say yes, officers will use their answers as grounds to reject the licence bid.
The move comes in response to last year's horrific killing spree in Cumbria by taxi driver Derrick Bird, 52, who killed 12 people and injured 11 others. Bird's former girlfriend later expressed concerns about why he was allowed legally to own a weapon despite previous run-ins with the law.
The high-profile case of Raoul Moat also prompted the review. He blasted his ex-girlfriend's new lover to death with a sawn-off shotgun and injured traffic officer PC David Rathband before later turning the weapon on himself in Rothbury, Northumberland, last year.
In future, gun licence applicants will have to list all current and recent partners. Police would then ask about the person's behaviour to build up a picture of the applicant. But the proposals face criticism from pro-gun supporters who say that delving into someone's sexual history may be a step too far.
Christopher Graffius, director of communications for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said last night: 'It is normally good practice for governments to be very careful before they step into people's bedrooms.' Mr Graffius said that checks were already made to see if the gun applicant had been involved in any domestic violence issues. He added: 'The system outlined appears extremely time-consuming and bureaucratic for no obvious gain.'
The Home Office is considering copying new laws introduced in Canada, where applicants must provide the authorities with details of all their partners over the past three years. These men and women are then spoken to by officers and if there is nothing untoward, they are asked to sign the gun certificate. However, there has been a rise in violence against those ex-partners who have refused to agree to the application.
The price of a gun certificate may also increase drastically under the new legislation to cover the cost of extra police checks. At present certificates cost £50 and last five years.
As the law stands, those applying for a shotgun licence are required to undergo a criminal-records check. They must also state any medical conditions they have and provide a counter-signature from an upstanding member of the community on the licence.
For a firearms certificate, which allows use of a rifle, the same criminal-records checks are carried out and applicants must provide testimony from two referees. But in neither case are character profiles built up.
Carmel Napier, Chief Constable for Gwent, who is also head of domestic violence for the Association of Chief Police Officers, has been involved in the consultation for the new laws. She confirmed that the Canadian model is being used as a template by the Home Office.
She said: 'The cases of Raoul Moat and Derrick Bird have led to this change. They have shown that more needs to be done. Looking at the Canadian example, reducing the threat of firearms in domestic violence is a key.
'My recommendation is that the Government should consult on this proposal and ask police licensing officers to consult current and recent domestic partners of applicants in assessing licence applications. The emphasis will be on the applicant to say who their partner and ex-partners are and provide details of those people. The police licensing officer would then build up an intelligence picture of the individual.'
- Carmel Napier, Chief Constable for Gwent
There are 138,728 people with firearms certificates in England and Wales and they own a total of 435,383 weapons. There are 574,946 shotgun certificates covering 1.4 million shotguns.
Most gun users are either farmers, landowners who shoot game or clay-pigeon shooters. But last year it was also revealed that nearly 5,000 children – some as young as ten – hold a gun licence. MPs have demanded minimum age limits be imposed on shotgun certificates and have urged tighter controls on gun owners with criminal records. After Bird's rampage, the Commons Home Office Select Committee demanded a review of the legislation, which members described as 'complex and confused'.
A Home Office spokesman said last night: 'Public protection is the first duty of any government and our firearms laws are among the toughest in the world. It is right that we keep them under review and we are prepared to tighten them further if necessary. Those controls must also be proportionate and fair and all options are on the table.'
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