Ministers won't back calls for stricter gun controls after Keyham shooting

Gunman Jake Davison carried out a mass shooting in Keyham in Plymouth in August 2021. Credit: PA Images

Ministers will not back calls for stricter controls on shotguns following the Keyham shootings.

Home Office minister Chris Philp said the Government would launch a consultation into firearms licensing following the killings in Keyham, Plymouth, in 2021, but stopped short of accepting a coroner’s calls for gun law reform.

Ian Arrow, senior coroner for Plymouth and South Devon, had said the 50-year-old Firearms Act was at “odds with public safety and the fundamental principle that owning a gun is a privilege and not a right”.

Lone gunman Jake Davison shot dead five people in a 12-minute attack in Keyham in August 2021.

He killed his mother, Maxine Davison, following an argument, before shooting dead four others - Lee Martyn, 43, and his three-year-old daughter Sophie Martyn, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66. He then turned the weapon on himself as he was confronted by an unarmed police officer on 12 August, 2021.

Jake Davison killed five people in Keyham in 2021.

In a series of reports to the Government and police organisations, Mr Arrow called for the legislative distinction between Section 1 firearms, such as rifles, and shotguns to be ended.

He also raised concerns around Home Office guidance provided to police forces applying the Firearms Act legislation, the training offered to police staff assessing licence applications and training given to judges hearing licence appeals.

Luke Pollard, the Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said he was "disappointed" the Government did not come to the House of Commons to lay out its response to the coroner.

In a written statement, Mr Philp said the Government had “decided not to proceed with recommendations on aligning shotgun and firearms legislation”.

He added: “Shotguns are already subject to significant controls, and they are important in helping farmers control vermin on their land, as well as being used in a variety of rural pursuits.

"We will keep this under review, but we are currently of the view that additional controls on shotguns are unnecessary and would have a negative impact on their legitimate use."

Davison legally held a shotgun certificate and weapon having been obsessed with firearms from a young age due to a trait in autism of developing a “special interest”.

As part of the application process, Davison had declared his autism and Asperger’s, but when police sought relevant information from his GP, the doctor declined to provide any as it was not mandatory.

The police granted the application in January 2018 to last five years. His weapon and certificate were seized in September 2020 after Davison was captured on CCTV punching a 16-year-old boy up to nine times in a skate park, but were handed back to him just five weeks before the killings.

Mr Philp insisted the Government would move forward “straight away” on new training for police firearms licensing teams. The minister said: “The Government has agreed to provide £500,000 in funding to support the development and rollout of a new national training package produced by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council.

“In due course, this training will become mandatory for police firearms licensing teams.”

The minister said a public consultation into firearms licensing would be launched on Thursday.

Luke Pollard told MPs: “We were promised an oral statement and a chance for Members of Parliament to scrutinise the Government’s response, but that response has been downgraded to a written ministerial statement, which means Members of Parliament, including local MPs like me, can’t ask questions on behalf of the families that are grieving and want to avert a tragedy again.”

In a question to Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, he asked: “Can the Leader advise me about when would be the opportunities to bring the Home Office ministers to this place to ask them why they rejected so many of the coroner’s recommendations that would have made gun laws better and safer for all our communities, so a tragedy like we saw in Plymouth can never be repeated again?”

Ms Mordaunt urged Mr Pollard to raise the matter with Home Secretary Suella Braverman at Home Office questions on Monday.