Easington MP wants changes to bill to strengthen UK gun laws after Horden massacre

AN MP has tabled a series of amendments to a proposed Parliamentary bill in a bid to strengthen UK gun laws.

Easington MP Grahame Morris, has asked for changes to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill in response to a local campaign by relatives of the Horden shootings victims.

Bobby Turnbull lost his mother, Alison, sister Tanya and aunt, Susan McGoldrick, when Michael Atherton killed them in Horden, on New Year’s Day last year.

Bobby, a greenkeeper at Hartlepool Golf Course, has led a campaign to strengthen gun laws and stop a repeat of similar tragedies – and has recently met with Home Office ministers who are currently revising the firearms guidance which the police use to assess gun licence applications.

But Mr Morris claims that revising the guidance does not go far enough and is seeking changes to the UK Firearms Act.

His amendments would require chief police officers to conduct a full range of background checks on applicants, with a presumption to refuse applications where evidence of violent conduct, domestic violence, mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse is uncovered.

Mr Morris said: “I think the public are right to expect that those seeking to own firearms should be subjected to routine background checks involving doctors, police, and domestic partners.

“Public safety must be paramount and where there is evidence of violence, mental illness, or substance abuse, the only response must be to refuse the application.

“I welcome any changes to strengthen the licensing guidelines, but it is clear that we must give chief constables, who issue firearms licenses, the power and confidence to refuse applications when they have public safety concerns, without fear that their decision will be overturned.

“I believe this can only be achieved through legislation.”

In another amendment, Mr Morris is seeking to ensure that applicants meet the full cost of their application when applying for a firearms license, to end the practice of police subsiding fees.

Mr Morris added “The current firearm application fee does not cover the cost incurred by the police when considering an application. Police budgets are under severe pressure due to Government cuts. We cannot cut corners with public safety.

“It is only right that those seeking to own a firearm should meet the full cost of conducting basic background checks and of processing the application. It is the only way we can ensure the police have the resources they need to effectively consider an application and ensure public safety is maintained.”

During the inquest, Coroner Andrew Tweddle, who reached a verdict that the women were unlawfully killed and that Atherton killed himself, said that under the current “flawed” gun licensing system, it was “fortuitous” there had not been more incidents like the one in Horden.

Despite having history of domestic violence, Atherton legally owned six weapons.