Plymouth shootings: what was the police gun licensing backlash?

What has happened to gun licensing in the UK since the August 2021 Plymouth shootings? The answer is not much. However, that’s no help to one shooter in Devon, Andrew Alger, who seems to have been caught up in a dragnet of suspects. Charlie Jacoby investigates.

Andrew Alger had his certificate renewal go through without a hitch at the beginning of August 2021. It was no more than he expected. He has been a licensed shooter without a stain on his character these last 40 years.

In the middle of the month, the tragic Plymouth shootings took place, where a 22-year-old licensed shooter murdered five people and injured two others before fatally shooting himself.

At the end of the month, armed Devon & Cornwall police officers visited Andrew at his home in a Devon village, and removed his guns and certificate without explanation. They told him to contact D&C firearms licensing. 

That’s what Andrew has been doing, every week – sometimes twice twice a week – since August. He has met a wall of silence, occasional promises to call him back, and one email complaining of workload. He has now escalated the matter to the Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez.

Andrew’s case baffles BASC. Its firearms department has not seen a spike in firearms confiscation since August, even in Devon & Cornwall. Local gunshop owner Ian Hodge of Ian Hodge Fieldsports confirms that he knows of nobody who has had their guns unexpectedly taken away.

A story in the Sunday Express reported that Devon & Cornwall was leading a charge to rescind ‘thousands’ of certificates across the UK following the Plymouth shootings. 

However, a later story in the Daily Telegraph says that the number of certificates rescinded was just eight.

Other forces are failing their shooting communities more significantly. North Yorkshire Police says it is halting all firearm and shotgun certificate grants. Constabulary firearms licensing manager Deputy Inspector Andy Palmer claims that the department is facing significant delays because of new statutory guidance from the government. Other forces have not made these claims. BASC calls the decision by the force ‘a clear breach of their statutory duty’.

 

There was no reason for the ‘new statutory guidance’. According to a survey by the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners, the public do not feel threatened by legal gun owners in the UK. The survey ran from 30 September to 20 October, yielding a total of 24,430 complete responses including a significant number from people who identified as current or former licence holders. APCC Chair Marc Jones says: “We were heartened to see a great deal of agreement between license holders and the wider public. The majority of both groups feel broadly assured about the effectiveness of the firearms licensing regime in England and Wales in keeping people safe. On behalf of the public, who we as PCCs are answerable to, this was important to hear.”

Meanwhile, Andrew waits for Devon & Cornwall Police Firearms Licensing to come back to him. He is hoping for an apology and the restoration of his certificate. He looks after the deerstalking on 1,000 acres of land in Devon and he has been unable to meet his cull targets since August.

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