MPs call for firearms rule change after Skye attack – BBC

A committee of MPs have recommended changes to gun regulations following a series of firearms incidents in north west Scotland.
The Scottish Affairs Committee said a two-tier payment system for those seeking a firearm for leisure or work purposes should be introduced.
It urged the government to review the current referee system where applicants can self-select two referees.
And it recommended extra mental health support within shooting organisations.
An inquiry was launched by the committee after John MacKinnon, 47, died after a firearm was discharged at Teangue in Skye in August.
A 39-year-old man has been charged in connection with his alleged murder.
Finlay MacDonald has also been accused of the attempted murders of a 32-year-old woman, and a man and woman, both 63, in a series of shootings and a stabbing on Skye and in Dornie, Wester Ross.
The committee's inquiry heard that the cost of processing licence applications could be up to £500, much of which was paid for by the police force.
It said those seeking a firearm for leisure should pay the full cost of their application, instead of the police contributing.
The committee recommended that anyone seeking a firearm for work purposes should pay a lower rate.
MPs have also urged the government to change the current referee system where applicants can choose who supplies their character references to police.
The committee raised concerns that there was often no consultation with people closest to the applicant.
Committee chairman Pete Wishart MP said: "While communities across Scotland – and indeed the UK – are reeling from the recent tragedy on the Isle of Skye, it is imperative to consider whether firearms licensing rules are fit for purpose.
"Our committee found that overwhelmingly it works well which explains the very rare instances of offences involving a firearm.
"But improvements to the system can be made."
Mr Wishart said the recommendations made to the UK government could help protect public finances, streamline complicated legislation and increase mental health support for firearms licence holders.
He said: "It is unacceptable that the taxpayer should help foot the bill for every firearms application, and a two-tier system should be rolled out to largely address this.
"There is also no need for additional confusion to an already complicated area of legislation: rules governing shotguns and firearms should be aligned.
"All too often, the mental health of firearms licence holders is not being adequately assessed or addressed.
"Our governments should work together to consider whether the current system of 'GP flagging' is working as best as it can."
Mr Wishart also said a 'buddy system', perhaps within recreational shooting groups, should be rolled out where individuals can spot and report any concerns they may have with their buddy's mental health.
Another recommendation was that more checks should be done during a licensee's five-year review period – Mr Wishart suggested this could include looking at the gun holder's relationships at home.
SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford welcomed the recommendations.
Mr Blackford said the views of existing and former partners should be taken into account when considering whether to issue a gun license.
He added: "We collectively owe it to the public in Skye and elsewhere to reflect on gun licensing and put into effect appropriate enhancements to the licensing regime."
However, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) expressed concerns over a potential increase in the cost of firearms licensing applications in Scotland.
It said the enhanced costs could deter recreational shooters, who contribute significantly to the rural economy.
Peter Clark, BASC Scotland's public affairs manager, said: "As the committee pointed out, the current system 'overwhelmingly' works well, and it recognises that offences involving a firearm are 'very rare'.
"We have concerns over the some of the recommendations in the report, namely those centring on a potential increase in cost for shooters and the alignment of shotgun and firearms licensing in Scotland.
"We believe the system is fit-for-purpose as it stands, and the introduction of increased application fees or the realignment of shotgun and firearms certification will do nothing further to improve public safety."
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