Starting this week, police up and down the country will be making unannounced visits to the homes of registered gun keepers to check their firearms are being kept in a suitably secure location.
Nationally, over the last five years a total of 3,296 licensed firearms and shotguns have been reported as stolen or lost. However, the annual number lost or stolen has fallen from 553 in 2009 to 415 in 2013.
In Humberside there have been 27 firearms or shotguns reported as stolen or lost since 2010.
Whilst locally the numbers are relatively small, one stolen or lost gun is still too many. This concern has led to an addition to the Home Office guidance that supports the police in making unannounced visits where there are concerns about security and risk.
Humberside Police’s Chief Inspector Neil Pattison said: “The aim of these checks is not to catch out the gun owners. We want to work with them and ensure those within the shooting community know how to keep their firearms safe and understand their responsibility to do so.
“Through our checks we will be able to assess that gun owners are doing what is required of them and where appropriate we will give advice to individual owners.”
Staff working in firearms licensing will be supported by neighbourhood officers in carrying out the home visits across the Humberside policing area.
National Policing Lead for Firearms and Explosives Licensing, Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “I know the vast majority of gun owners understand their responsibility to secure firearms and in the main take this very seriously, which allows their continued lawful use for work or leisure purposes.
“A lost or stolen firearm could end up in the hands of criminals who would pose a clear threat to the public. We want to remind gun owners to check their security measures are up scratch so that they are not inadvertently putting people at risk.”
Certificate holders who are clearly not complying with security measures may face having their certificates revoked. However, this is the last resort and, where appropriate, support and advice will be provided.
Specific security advice can be found on the Home Office website. Local police firearms departments are also available to provide support and guidance to firearms owners.
Chief Inspector Pattison added: “The public and especially the shooting community can help police in gathering intelligence and protecting our communities by being vigilant around firearms licensing.
“The shooting community is close, and will recognise sudden behavioural changes in fellow shooters that could cause concerns. However, they may not feel like they can act and the Crimestoppers hotline empowers people to voice concerns anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Anyone concerned guns are being kept insecurely or notice signs that shooters may be vulnerable to criminal or terrorist groups or have shown sympathy towards extremist acts, should report it to police by calling the non emergency number 101.