The Association of Chief Police Officers has advised police forces to up their activity concerning firearms controls and begin calling on firearms owners unannounced.
As part of a campaign to reduce extremism and radicalisation, surprise visits are set to begin as soon as 15 October. ACPO is also asking people to report signs of vulnerability to terrorist propaganda among firearms owners. Shooting organisations have described the move as “unjustified”.
ACPO said: “This is by no means a heavy-handed sting targeting licence holders and gun owners are being given a general warning that these visits are taking place. Where security measures are found to be inadequate further advice will be given, with heavier sanctions only being considered where there has been a dangerous disregard for safety. We have been working closely with BASC in the preparation of this campaign to ensure that the overall message of the activity is correct and appropriate, and should not be interpreted as unnecessary targeting of firearms owners.”
But the Countryside Alliance rejected the plans: “We are always ready to support sensible, evidence-based proposals to improve firearm licensing and security. For instance we fully support unannounced checks on licence holders if they are based on specific intelligence of risk.
“This campaign, however, is exactly the sort of knee-jerk reaction to an unrelated problem that the Government had promised to avoid. It is unjustified and ill-judged, and will serve only to waste police resources and alienate a large and law abiding section of the community.
“The public appeal for information about certificate holders through Crimestoppers will encourage malicious complaints and the link made with radicalisation and terrorism is insulting and ridiculous. We have not been made aware of a single recent incident in which a licence holder has misused a firearm in pursuit of an extremist agenda.”