England

Police forces plan to cut home visits to gun owners

Gun licence regulations could be relaxed by police in parts of eastern England to save money.

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire police plan to scrap blanket home visits, with people renewing licences on the phone.

In Essex police are considering carrying out gun licence renewals by post.

The Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers said the steps were against the guideline of a home visit every five years.

David Guest, who lives in Hertfordshire and has owned a gun for more than 20 years, said he was stunned to receive a call from police telling him his licence would be renewed on the telephone.

He said: "It might be saving them time and maybe money but I don't think it's a way of tightening up the laws."

Gun shop Steve Bagglia from St Albans said up to 30 customers had told him of their surprise at the move.

"I suppose you could call it unbelievable really.

"I would say it's an irresponsible way of going about it because you can't tell what people are like when you're just talking to them on the phone.

"You can't stop people going mad but there's no way you can tell that people are going mad.

"You can have some form of screening in a face to face meeting."

Duty to community

Steve Ottaway is the collaboration programme director at Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire police.

He said: "We are not compromising public safety.

"We are taking a risk-based approach to this we can show that only 0.2 % of home visits actually lead to a revocation of a certificate in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

"Unfortunately in the current climate policing is having 20% removed from its budgets we have to make best use of that money and we are adopting a risk-based approach."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The UK's firearms laws are among the toughest in the world.

"Firearms licensing departments carry out statutory functions which are crucial to public safety and we expect every police force to make full checks on all those applying for or renewing a licence.

"Chief constables have a duty to provide assurance to the communities they serve that the public will be protected."

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