Number of legal guns in Northumbria Police force area reaches record levels
The number of legally-held guns in Northumbria has reached a record high, figures reveal.
New Home Office statistics show that in March this year there were 13,235 licenced firearms in the area – 37% more than 10 years ago.
This means there are 914 legal firearms for every 100,000 people, up 33% from when comparable records began in 2009. That's higher than any point over the last decade.
The figures do not include shotguns, which are licenced separately.
Under current legislation, one licence can apply to multiple weapons and must be renewed every five years.
According to the data, 3,689 firearms licences were on issue from Northumbria Police as of 31 March, each covering 3.6 guns on average.
In the financial year 2018-19, officers logged 175 applications for new licences. Nearly all (97%) of these were granted and only five refused.
A further 377 licences were renewed and 14 revoked.
The non-profit Gun Control Network called the steady increase in legal firearms "a problem for us all".
The organisation's chairwoman, Gill Marshall-Andrews, said: "We know there is a strong correlation between the number of guns in circulation and the number of deaths and injuries caused by guns.
"For too long the myth has persisted that gun crime in the UK is committed with illegal guns.
"Shooters have successfully persuaded the general public that urban gangs with illegal guns are responsible for most of our gun homicides.
"But this is not true, especially for women."
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The GCN said four-fifths of female gun deaths occur in domestic incidents, most of which involve licensed weapons.
But the British Association for Shooting and Conservation said the number of legal guns used in crime is "miniscule and statistically insignificant".
Firearms director Bill Harriman added: "The UK rightly has some of the strictest firearms laws in the world.
"We are proud of our legislation and work well with the Home Office to ensure public safety is of the highest priority."
In March 2019, there were nearly 160,000 licences across England and Wales, covering some 597,000 guns.
Police force areas in rural regions had a consistently higher number of firearms per 100,000 people than in cities.
The Home Office attributes this to their lower populations, and said weapons owned in the countryside are likely to be used for game keeping and farming, as well as leisure activities such as target shooting.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: "Many of the licence applications we receive are from people living in rural areas who use their firearms for work. Over the years, we have also seen an increase in the number of people applying for firearms licences so they can pursue a range of outdoor activities, such as clay pigeon shooting.
"Despite the large number of applications we receive, we have a very robust vetting process in place and our dedicated staff evaluate each application in great detail before granting anyone a licence.
"We look at the specific reasons why people are applying and ensure everyone who has the ability to use their firearm safely and responsibly and stores it in safe and secure place.
"The vast majority of licence holders are responsible firearms users and we would encourage anyone who wants to own a firearm to do so, but through the appropriate channels."