Family’s work to change gun laws

Bobby Turnbull
Bobby Turnbull

TIRELESS work by the family of three shooting victims has been commended in helping to bring about potential changes to the gun laws.

Home Secretary Theresa May has outlined proposed changes to gun legislation which could see people wanting to own guns having to show that their partner supports their application, to reduce the risk to domestic violence victims.

In a letter to Keith Vaz, chairman of the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, Mrs May confirmed that the Home Office is working with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) “to bring in stronger guidance on how reports of domestic violence should be treated by police considering firearms applications”.

It follows last year’s shooting tragedy in Horden which saw taxi driver Michael Atherton, 42, shoot dead his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and Alison’s daughter Tanya Turnbull, 24, before turning the gun on himself.

Atherton had a history of domestic violence and had his weapons removed by police in 2008, but he successfully applied to have them returned.

Alison’s son Bobby Turnbull, 24, from Blackhall, who with relatives mounted a campaign to get stricter gun laws, said: “It’s a step in the right direction, but in a bad way and a good way.

“The partner of the applicant may be too scared to tell the truth, but then it could stop someone losing their life.

“I think this should go further and the applicant’s partner’s family and the applicant’s family should be asked for their views, not just the one person, to get more evidence.”

Mrs May’s letter said that although each case would be considered individually, the Home Office would discuss with ACPO changes to guidance to stress that “it is not appropriate to issue a firearm or shotgun certificate where there is a history or successive reports of domestic abuse”.

Mrs May said a similar system in Canada would be scrutinised further to see if this measure would reduce the risk to domestic violence victims. Mrs May said the Home Office is also working with the British Medical Association to see how the process of police and GP’s sharing information about applicants could be further strengthened.

Easington MP Grahame Morris, who has been supporting Bobby Turnbull’s campaign, said the plans were “really positive”.

He added: “I think the campaign Bobby Turnbull and his family have ran has played a material role in bringing about these long overdue changes in the interests of public safety.

“I have no doubt that events internationally as well as locally have had a part to play but Mr Turnbull and his family have been quite diligent in pursuing this.”

Bobby’s petition calls for people with criminal convictions, a history of domestic violence, mental instability, or alcohol or other substance abuse, to be barred from owning firearms.

It also wants more rigorous sharing of information between police, licensing authorities and health professionals and for the licensing system to require a good reason for the possession of weapons.

It can be found at