Three-year high for gun licences

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The number of guns owned by Wiganers is on the rise following a licensing spike, shock new figures reveal.

A total of 136 certificates for the use of firearms were issued to people in the borough by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in 2015, statistics released under Freedom of Information (FOI) rules show.

The figure is the highest for the past three years, with 125 certificates being given in 2014 and 91 in 2013.

The number of section seven licences which allow people to renew their permission to have a gun is also going up dramatically, with 26 issued in 2015 compared to two in 2014 and none in 2013.

GMP have reassured the public the licensing conditions are extremely stringent, with Home Office documents saying that people can only have certain types of firearms at home if they have “good reason”.

A local MP, however, says the number of weapons being licenced is concerning and there is a need for law changes to prevent them falling into the wrong hands.

Makerfield parliamentary representative Yvonne Fovargue said: “Legally registering a firearm is the best way of making a person accountable and responsible for its use.

“Gun ownership is a privilege and the police must ensure that in the interests of public safety that background and ongoing checks are thorough.

“I believe that reform of the gun licensing regime is needed and needed now. The vast majority of the shooting community are law-abiding citizens who are very careful about how they use their weapons.

“But it is becoming clear that the licensing system is not working as well as it should to serve license holders and protect the public.

“In the last Parliament I supported measures to enshrine in law a clear principle that those with a history of domestic or sexual violence, substance abuse or serious mental health problems should not be allowed a gun.

“I also wanted to shift the onus on to the applicant to prove their suitability and make the system self-financing in order to give the police the resources they need to carry out proper background checks and provide a better service to the shooting community.”

The FOI figures show hundreds of weapons licences are being dished out by GMP across the region each year.

A total of 432 firearms certificates were awarded in Greater Manchester in 2015. Although this was slightly below the 2014 mark of 458 it was a significant increase on the 361 given out in 2013.

Last year also saw a massive region-wide spike in section seven renewal certificates being given out, with 75 awarded compared to just seven in 2014 and six in 2013.

Home Office guidance says Britain has among the toughest controls on firearms in the world but some shotguns, rifles and other weapons will be granted to individuals assessed by the police.

To get a certificate applicants must prove they do not pose a threat to the public and “have good reason to own the firearm”.

Police forces may carry out a number of checks, including interviews, visits to homes, criminal records checks and asking for references, before granting licences.

GMP was asked to comment on the FOI figures but was unavailable.