Lords dig heels in over firearms database bill
Sarah Petrie, Computing 15 Feb 1997
The House of Lords is piling pressure on the Government to speed up the creation of a computerised register of all firearms owners, after inflicting a third defeat on ministers over gun control.
Tory peer Lord Marlesford insisted that a database accessible online by all UK police forces is an urgent necessity to help prevent another massacre like Hungerford or Dunblane. He also cast doubt on plans to use the police national computer Phoenix system for such a database.
Marlesford said government talks about setting up a register - which would include .22 pistol owners who are required to store their weapons in secure gun-club armouries - on Phoenix were 'not good enough'.
He said he was demanding action because it was five years since a report complained that police firearms departments are not routinely informed when a firearms certificate-holder has been jailed for an offence.
He contrasted the delay with the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority computer system, which has been online since 1973. It is 'a tool without which the police would not be able to operate effectively today', he said.
Marlesford insisted the provision for a database should be in the bill, and he was prepared for further amendments.
'I have heard some pretty indifferent reports on the progress of Phoenix,' he added. 'The (Home Office) minister does not give me great confidence that Phoenix is necessarily the vehicle for the rapid implementation of a system which I believe is urgently required.'
He said that with a register 'there would be a better chance of picking up people with a firearm certificate who did something they should not'.
He added: 'It would be a ... way of making it less likely that people unsuited to do so would be able to hold firearms.'
Earl Attlee declared: 'It seems incredible that members of the Metropolitan Police do not know, when investigating a potential criminal, whether there is a possibility of a legal firearm being involved.'
Viscount Brookeborough said that police in Ulster maintain a register which records details of every weapon owned.
Parts of the project chronology is shown here.