Plymouth shooting: Police forces asked to review firearms application processes

15 August 2021, 22:30

Police continue to investigate the shooting
Police continue to investigate the shooting. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Police forces have been asked to review their firearm application processes in the wake of the Plymouth shooting.

Jake Davison killed five people and took his own life in his attack on Thursday.

It has since emerged the 22-year-old held a firearms licence despite his online presence, which included YouTube and Facebook, in which he appeared infatuated with "incel" (involuntarily celibate) culture.

That culture is described as misogynistic and has been linked to acts of violence in the US. Davison also referred to "black pill" beliefs – the idea that a person's success with the opposite sex is determined at birth.

New statutory guidance from the Government will cover social media checks of people applying for permission to get a firearms or shotgun licence, the Home Office said, and forces will be asked to consider if they need to review existing licences.

Read more: Plymouth gunman’s mother and girl, 3, named among victims of mass shooting

Read more: Plymouth shooting: Online page set up for information as community reels from tragedy

It follows comments from former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens, who told The Sunday Telegraph Davison was "clearly a dangerous man".

He added: "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."

The Sun reported that Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said officers did not look at Davison's internet use because it would be an "invasion of privacy".

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.

"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."

Government documents online suggest police can use open source social media when dealing with licences.

Read more: How could Plymouth gunman get a firearm licence?

Davison killed his 51-year-old mother, Maxine, before killing three-year-old Sophie Martyn and her 43-year-old father Lee.

The gunman later killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park before Kate Shepherd, 66, was shot. She died at Derriford Hospital.

Two others known to each other – a 33-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman – were also shot but their injuries, despite being significant, are not thought to be life-threatening.

Police are investigating the circumstances of his licence.

Preliminary information from Devon and Cornwall Police suggests his firearm and licence where given back to him in July after they were taken away following an assault allegation in September last year.

It was given back after he attended an anger management course.

Boris Johnson has called for a proper investigation.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has demanded to know "how on earth" Davison got a gun.

The Liberal Democrats have said Home Secretary Priti Patel has failed to act on a Home Office consultation calling for new checks before a licence is given, but a Tory source accused them of "playing politics" in the shooting's aftermath.

Meanwhile, prayers have been said for the five victims as Plymouth continues to mourn.

A church in Keyham, near where the tragedy took place, remembered those killed.

Father David Way, parish priest at St Thomas' Church in Keyham, told the PA news agency after the service: "Those people who have died, we have to keep those in our prayers, but also the loved ones which have been left behind.

"I'm hoping we can break any cycle of anger, as it were, and bring a cycle of love for everybody involved."

During the service, he asked the congregation to pray for the five victims, and added: "We pray also for peace for Jake."