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Stricter UK Firearms and Explosives Licensing Legislation: How Technology Can Help Firearms and Explosives Licensing Officers More Efficiently Meet Requirements

Author: Nicola Wells
Date: June 2022

Firearms and Explosives Licensing – a repetitive assignment for UK Police Forces to quietly manage and rarely, if ever, on the general public’s radar…until a tragic spotlight is shone upon it of course.

The shocking acts committed last summer in Plymouth, where members of the public were indiscriminately shot and killed by a UK firearms licence holder firmly placed the spotlight at the firearms licensing office door. Now the public and Government look for answers to their questions…why and how?

The UK has some of the world’s strictest gun and ammunition laws, and behind them are the Police staff and officers responsible for making the decisions on who is suitable to hold a licence. They are the ones people come to for the answers. So how do we ensure they can make the best decisions? Decisions that comply with the statutory guidance. Decisions that are consistent with their colleagues and other UK forces.

The Government wasted no time to adapt legislation in light of Plymouth and by November 2021 the Firearms Act was amended to require that no one is given a firearms licence unless the Police can review relevant medical history. The associated guidance also sets out other areas the police should review before granting a licence – including examining an applicant’s social media, financial history, interviewing associates, or checking with domestic violence or public protection units;, where the police consider that more evidence is needed before authorising a licence.

While these additional checks are necessary, background checks conducted by the police are already extensive, spanning everything from criminal convictions and previous run-ins with the law, to evidence of domestic turmoil, unmanaged debt or even dishonesty. The result is that firearms and explosives licensing officers have seen a compounding of problems that already existed – Namely, the time-consuming and problematic nature of having to manually gather and collate intelligence, draw links and create reports. All contained in different data sources, with each needing its own login, requiring the need to switch between different browser windows. With a limited workforce, and the need to now check against more data sources, firearms and explosives licensing officers are under even more pressure to fulfil their obligations.

Ensuring that those accountable are given the tools to access the broadest and best quality data and carry out searches at the requisite level of detail is imperative when deciding who can legally access lethal weapons. This is precisely why our data aggregation platform Scout® was created. And I don’t say this lightly, as a sales pitch. As a former police officer for 14 years, I’ve been there. I’ve had to make tough decisions, judgement calls, react to events. And so have the creators of Scout®. It’s why it exists. To address the need for automation of data assessment, reduce risk to your constabulary and for standardisation of checks, no matter what the licensing officer’s experience level.

Learn more about our Firearms Licensing platform here.

Nicola Wells
Nicola (Nic) Wells is Synalogik’s Public Sector Sales Manager. Introducing Scout® to organisations across the public sector, helping them to transform their investigations activity.Nic is no stranger to investigation, having served as a Detective Constable for 14 years, before spending 5 years at Santander as their Financial Intelligence Manager. With expertise in investigating financial crime, human trafficking, modern slavery and immigration crime, Nic has the knowledge and passion to understand her client’s needs, working with them to improve effectiveness and efficiency.