HMIC publishes terms of reference for firearms licensing review

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has confirmed that it is carrying out a review of firearms licensing.

The review’s public terms of reference, which have been published on the HMIC website, are:

This inspection will review the efficiency and effectiveness of the arrangements in place for managing firearms licensing.

We will examine how well:

  • the governance structures work for firearms licensing at a national, regional and local level;
  • the force understands and manages risk relating to firearms licensing on a 24/7 basis, including levels of awareness of firearms licensing-related risks among first responders and supervisors;
  • the force learns to improve its firearms licensing including implementation of recommendations from national reports into fatal shootings by, for example, Firearms And Explosives Licensing Working Group (FELWG), Home Affairs Select Committee, Her Majesty‚Äôs Coroners and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC);
  • Authorised Professional Practice and Home Office Guidance on Firearms Licensing Law (2014) is understood and applied by police officers and staff concerned with the firearms licensing process; and
  • the force engages with stakeholders e.g., medical professionals, licensees, special interest groups, educational establishments and the public.

HMIC will visit a representative sample of police forces in England and Wales.

An HMIC spokesman told UKSN that the review would be published in early summer. There is no formal connection between this review and the Law Commission’s review of firearms offences, which is focused on punishing the criminal misuse of firearms rather than the licensing system.


On the face of it HMIC’s effort looks like a fairly benign review as far as shooters are concerned; while ACPO is dead, its FELWG sub-committee, which effectively held a legislative position as far as firearms licensing is concerned thanks to its self-appointed function of deciding what laws to enforce and how to interpret them, doesn’t seem to be playing a big role here.

Neither do the public terms of reference mention anything about reviewing existing firearms controls. Of course, the public terms of reference and what happens behind closed doors may well be two separate things.

The only potential fly in the ointment is the mention of “stakeholders”, particularly “special interest groups” and “educational establishments”. There is virtually no anti-gun lobby in the UK of the sort that Americans would recognise, although there is a tiny group of four people calling itself the Gun Control Network* which pops up from time to time. The only educational establishment that comes to mind is Brighton University, whose anti-gun criminology professor Peter Squires used to call himself an “ACPO advisor” until UKSN asked ACPO exactly what his connection with them was. “None”, was the thrust of their full answer, which UKSN keeps on file and is happy to provide to any shooter who asks.

*The GCN’s four members are: Ex-Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews; his wife Jill, who got a taste for bossing people around as part of the Snowdrop Campaign in 1996; Peter Squires; and one Christine “Chrissy” Hall.

Despite, or perhaps because, of this pressure group’s minuscule membership, it is on the radar of a number of broadcast media organisations which have a duty to promote a “balanced” view. “Balanced” does not mean “accurate”; rather, the basic thinking goes that every argument has a counter-argument and as such both sides must be presented, regardless of their obvious merits or lack of.

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