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Gun licence applicants in UK face social media checks after Plymouth attack – The Guardian

Plymouth shooting

Police asked to review firearm application processes, as minute’s silence to be held in Plymouth

PA Media

Mon 16 Aug 2021 02.46 EDT

Applicants for permission to own a firearm or shotgun will be subject to social media checks after the Plymouth mass shooting, ministers have said.

Questions have been asked about how the Keyham gunman Jake Davison, 22, obtained a firearms licence and carried out his attack, in which he killed five people before turning the gun on himself.

A minute’s silence will be held in the city on Monday as the community and civic leaders unite to mourn and reflect on last week’s events.

The family of one victim, Stephen Washington, 59, said their world “has been turned upside down in the blink of an eye”.

The government said on Sunday it was preparing statutory guidance to help ensure higher standards of decision-making for police firearms licensing applications. This will cover social media checks on those applying for permission to own a firearm or shotgun, according to the Home Office.

All police forces in England and Wales are being asked to review their firearm application processes and assess whether they need to revisit any existing licences.

The former Metropolitan police chief John Stevens told the Sunday Telegraph that officers should trawl through online accounts of people applying for licences to ensure that “guns do not fall into the hands of dangerous people”.

The Devon and Cornwall chief constable, Shaun Sawyer, said officers did not look at internet usage when returning firearms licences as it would be an “invasion of privacy”, according to the Sun newspaper.

Social media usage by Davison suggested an obsession with “incel” – involuntary celibate – culture as well as an interest in guns and the US.

An investigation is under way 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 Davison’s gun and firearms permit to him last month, after it was removed following an allegation of assault in September last year.

Plymouth will fall silent at 11am on Monday, and a candlelit vigil is due to take place on the Jubilee Green in Saltash at 8.45pm in honour of the five victims.

Washington, the fourth victim of the shooting, was gunned down in a park in the Keyham area. In a statement released by police, his relatives called him a “devoted” family man and a “loving husband, father, grandfather and best friend”.

His widow, Sheila, described him as her “soulmate”, saying: “Fly high, you’ve earned your angel wings.”

Davison shot his 51-year-old mother, Maxine Davison, also known as Maxine Chapman, at a house in Biddick Drive before he went into the street and shot dead Sophie Martyn, aged three, and her father, Lee Martyn, 43.

In the 12-minute attack, Davison then killed Washington before shooting 66-year-old Kate Shepherd, who later died at Derriford hospital.

Jess Morcom, Lee Martyn’s cousin and a journalist at Plymouth Live, paid tribute to him and his daughter and spoke of the loss felt by her family. In a post on Twitter, she said Martyn “had the kindest heart, would do anything for anybody” and that “you only had to take one look at him to see how much he loved and adored his family”.

Claire Kidd paid tribute to her “very talented artist” friend Shepherd, telling the BBC: “We are all feeling deeply sad and in shock.”

Davison also shot two local residents who are known to each other, a 33-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman, in Biddick Drive. They received significant injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.

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