Police asked to include social media checks in gun applications process after Plymouth shooting

Police monitor the scene after the Plymouth mass shooting. Credit: PA

The police are being asked to review how people legally get access to firearms - including adding checking a person's social media to the application process - in the wake of the Plymouth mass shooting which left six people dead, including the gunman.

Questions are continuing to mount over how Keyham gunman Jake Davison, 22, obtained a firearms licence and carried out his rampage, killing five people before turning the gun on himself.

The government said on Sunday evening that it was preparing statutory guidance to help ensure higher standards of decision-making for police firearms licensing applications in England and Wales.

This will cover social media checks of those applying for permission to own a firearm or shotgun, according to the Home Office.

All police forces in England and Wales are now being asked to assess whether they need to revisit any existing licences.

A screengrab of Jake Davison taken from a video posted on Youtube Credit: PA

It comes after a former Metropolitan Police chief said officers should trawl through online accounts of people applying for firearms licences to ensure that “guns do not fall into the hands of dangerous people”.

Social media usage by Davison suggested an obsession with "incel" culture, meaning "involuntary celibate", as well as an interest in guns and the US.

Incels are men who often feel anger towards the world for their lack of romantic and sexual relations, particularly towards women.

Davison's six-minute rampage included his own mother and a three-year-old girl.

A Home Office source said: "Incidents such as Thursday’s horrific events in Plymouth are thankfully rare, but their impact is profound, not only on those directly affected but on the public as a whole.

Tributes left in Keyham for the five victims Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

"We constantly assess what sensible and proportionate steps we can take to help prevent such terrible loss of life happening again.

"We are bringing forward new guidance to improve how people applying for a firearms licence are assessed in future, including social media checks.

“But today, as a matter of urgency, we are asking the police to review their practices and whether any existing licences need to be looked at again.

“This will help reassure people that all necessary checks have been made to keep them safe.”

An investigation is already underway by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into Davison’s possession of a shotgun and a firearms licence.

It will look at why Devon and Cornwall Police returned his gun and firearms permit to him last month after it was removed following an allegation of assault in September last year.

Former Scotland Yard commissioner Lord Stevens told The Sunday Telegraph that Davison was "clearly a dangerous man", adding: "The videos he made should have been taken into account when he applied for a shotgun licence.

"There needs to be a trawling of online content for an in-depth assessment of who these people are and what they think.”

A public consultation was carried out by the government in 2019 before the first publication of the statutory guidance, resulting in over 11,000 responses.

The statutory guidance and responses to the public consultation are due to be published in the coming weeks.