Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Eight years of trying and still no UK gun register

And these are the bunglers who are supposed to keep people safe! I am sure everyone must feel greatly reassured. What a great substitute for self-protection it all is!

"The national firearms register ordered in the wake of the Dunblane tragedy will not be in operation until next year at the earliest, eight years after parliament agreed the move in a bid to get a grip on more than a million weapons in private hands across the country. The government has admitted that the roll-out of the long-delayed project has been suspended until the New Year, after it ran into a series of technical problems during its pilot period. The huge computer system set up to support the scheme is unable to print firearms certificates, and the police and other authorities involved in the licensing process complained it was running "incredibly slowly".....

Ministers agreed the national register after post-Dunblane investigations, including the inquiry led by Lord Cullen, found alarming disparities in the records of legally-held firearms, maintained by different police forces across the country. Hamilton had legal certificates allowing him to own the guns in his arsenal.

Latest Home Office figures estimate that 1,325,385 shotguns are held legally in the UK, along with 316,669 other firearms. But the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, finally pushed through in the early months of the new Labour government, aimed to prevent "unsuitable applicants" from holding guns by creating a central register of everyone who had applied for, been granted or refused a firearm or shot gun certificate.

The flagship project has been hit by delays including problems developing a link between the national DNA database and the criminal records on the police national computer, and a freeze on all new applications to allow an essential upgrade of the police national computer. The latest complaints over delays in the scheme come four years after the MPs� Home Affairs Select Committee said it was appalled by the failure to implement a measure it regarded as "absolutely central to the safe and effective operation of the firearms licensing system". The government signed a contract for the management of the system a year ago, but ministers have now admitted it has already run into problems. Home Office minister Lord Rooker said: "Clearly, there have been unacceptable delays, but the delays were known about and not easily avoided." ....

The Police Information Technology Organisation, which is developing the register as part of a national firearms licensing management system that links into the police national computer, finally signed a contract with Anite Public Sector Limited to create the database last October. The system was declared ready in the summer, but Rooker has now admitted that the project has been suspended until the New Year at the earliest, blaming "a number of technical difficulties". He said: "A database on its own is not of much business benefit to the police. It has to work. It was set up and operational this summer and was piloted. Two key problems were discovered during the piloting. "The system was unable to print the certificates, which I understand has mainly been dealt with now. Secondly, the system was running incredibly slowly - much too slowly for the police operational services."

But North warned that, even once the register finally becomes available to police forces, it might not fully close the loopholes laid bare by the Dunblane tragedy. He said: "We recognise that the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS) will not include all weapons used in crime, partly because of the number of illegal weapons in circulation and also because many of the guns now used in crime do not have to be registered, such as imitations, airguns and so on. "Nevertheless the system would provide a means of monitoring any movement of weapons from those who hold them legally into the hands of those who use them for crime. "It also remains a concern that even when the NFLMS is up and running it only covers firearms in England and Wales.""

[So nip up to Scotland and buy any guns you want! And don't forget that it was a massacre in Scotland that started all this! British bureaucracy is beyond belief]

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