U.K. Gun Applicants to Have Social Media Vetted After Mass Shooting

The government of the United Kingdom has asked police to begin reviewing the social media accounts of people applying for gun licenses after the country's worst mass shooting since 2010, according to a BBC report on Monday.

The BBC said the country's Home Office department is preparing new guidance for police in regards to decisions around gun applications, which will include advice for police on how to check social media accounts for anyone wanting to own a firearm or shotgun. The new guidance will reportedly also apply to revising existing permits.

Mass shooting Plymouth
The U.K. government is reportedly working on guidance for police to check social media accounts of gun applicants in the wake of a recent mass shooting in Plymouth, England. In this photo, police examine the scene of the shooting in Plymouth, England, on August 13, 2021. Finnbarr Webster/Getty

The move comes after Jake Davison, 22, shot and killed five people, including his mother and a three-year-old girl, on Thursday in the town of Plymouth in southwest England. He also took his own life in what was the largest mass shooting the country in more than a decade.

A review of Davison's social media activity showed he strongly supported right-wing politics and former U.S. President Donald Trump. Misogynistic views and interest in guns and violent video games were also reportedly expressed on his accounts.

Davison had previously had his gun license revoked in December 2020 after an assault allegation that September, but it was restored in July. His gun was also returned to him at that time. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating why the Devon and Cornwall Police gave Davison back his license and firearm.

The BBC said the government is working on guidelines regarding firearms license applications that will affect all 43 police forces in England and Wales. While it drafts the proposal, police forces in England and Wales have been asked to review current practices regarding license checks and reexamine any existing licenses that may need extra scrutiny.

The U.K. has tried addressing issues with the gun license and ownership process in recent years. In 2015, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said it found problems with some police forces in how they approved applications, resulting in the government handing over more power to the Home Secretary in 2017 in regards to guidance on licensing.

The Home Office also first suggested in 2019 that police check the social media accounts for applicants prior to granting licenses.

The U.K. has long maintained strict gun laws. Those laws include policies such as: shotgun and firearm ownership certificates are issued by police, and law enforcement officers check the applicants' history for criminal records, evidence of substance issues or signs of personality disorders. Gun owners must keep the weapon in a secure location, such as a gun cabinet.