back to article Renew your firearms licence via your iPhone

Sussex Police plan to allow gun owners to renew their firearms licences using an iPhone app. The app will be part of a suite allowing the public to access news, appeals and other services form their iPhone. The technology push is intended to save £3m, freeing up valuable cop time, but means firearms applicants won't have to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    Where's the app for taking your driving test? Perhaps that should include browsing for porn while parallel parking?

  2. hplasm

    Coming soon to Sussex iPolice:-

    "Been naughty? Do us a favour and lock yourselves up."

    The key is under the mat.

  3. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down


    What's the point of making an iPhone app for this, when a website (accessible on all internet-connected devices and workstations) would be far more suitable?

    Some middle-management idiot has been reading too many buzzwords.

  4. PrivateBaldrick
    Thumb Down

    Public servants?

    Suerly the police, being a public service need to provide services that all members of the public can use and not just iPhone owners.

    Wouldn't a better approach be to setup a scheme via a standard web service first - accessible by a much larger majority - before a dedicated iPhone app for the minority gun toting Apple iPhone fan-boys and girls out there?

    iPhone bandwagon firmly jumped on.


      Welcome back to the 80s vendorlock

      Perhaps they could even use that mythical HTML5 thats supposed to be a vendor neutral standard.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        It is a vendor-neutral standard, you knob end. The bitching and moaning about which video codec to implement in browser support is a seperate issue, one that is overshadowing the major advances in standardisation that HTML 5 and related technologies provide.

  5. James 5

    Insane !

    There's a real world out there - it's a world in which (very rarely) events like Derek Bird, Thomas Hamilton and Hungerford happen.

    Perhaps it would be better to have anyone applying for a gun licence to be psychologically assessed every year (at their own cost) before even being allowed to approach the police - would filter out a good 50% I reckon...

  6. Code Monkey

    Freeing up valuable cop time

    A few people in this country need guns, others want to have them. I reckon more time spent checking both groups are people who should have them is far from wasted.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What, are there still guns in Blighty?

    Except in the hands of criminals, of course. That's a given.

    On that tangent, I find it amazing how there will always be a proliferation of do-gooder pressure groups that don't understand that only the gullible will listen to their demands, and disarm. Thus leaving the people you least want to have guns or whatever is the object of object du jour still armed and dangerous, and now with an obligingly emptied playing field.

    How, pray tell, is that going to help anyone else? Is that really the entirety of possible approaches to your perceived problem you can think of?

    Note that I'm not advocating either way. I'm just appalled at the poor quality of the ``solutions'' the average pressure group can bring themselves to lobby in favour of.

    1. Martin Nicholls
      Black Helicopters


      What are you selling here exactly?

      Nobody has ever suggested criminals will disarm because it's illegal, it's pretty obvious that isn't the case.

      That said criminals here *tend* not to go tooled up with guns to the average robbery or mugging in the street, mostly because the punishment is worse for the gun crime than for the crime you're actually trying to commit, they also know they're unlikely to meet another gun on random chump #74.

      Ofc there's innocent gun deaths but in the main they tend to be mostly crossfire in criminals trying to kill each other (which tends to be only 1 person at a time), which if they would learn to shoot right would be no bad thing, then let SOCA clean up what is left over.

      It's pretty telling that after the original ban there has been no mass killings in the UK, and the next one was with the weapons that are still legal for civilians to own. Actually in all fairness, the legislation-to-killings ratios in the stats globally speak very clearly for themselves. The more you legislate the less people die.

      And no I'm not part of any "do-gooder pressure group", I just have an IQ that actually registers or better.

      The US locks up more of its citizens than any other country in the world (including china), still has the death penalty which also clearly doesn't work and yet still has the highest levels of gun crime in the 'civilised' world - that's where that sort of thinking gets you.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        And New Zealand has one of the lowest.

        In spite of having a per-capita rate of firearms ownership second only to the U.S. New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of violent crime involving firearms in the world. Similar statistics can be cited for Switzerland and Canada, both of which have high rates of private firearms ownership.

        The U.K. also has some of the most restrictive firearms laws in Europe, yet it has the highest rate of imprisonment in Europe, IIRC something like twice the rate the Republic of Ireland

        Not sure I can be arsed digging up citations for this but the last time someone went postal with a gun one of the papers in NZ had an article comparing rates of violent crime in OECD countries. The U.S. was third behind South Africa and Northern Ireland and NZ, Switzerland and Canada were close to the bottom, in spite of having fairly high rates of per-capiata firearms ownership.

        One of the popular research methods books (either Freakonomics or The Undercover Economist) cites an empirical study that did find a correlation between (IIRC) access to handguns and rates of violent crime. The conclusion of the study was that the effect was statistically significant (i.e. low p value) but negiglably small (which is possible if you have a large enough sample) so it didn't make a significant difference in practice.

        However, debate about firearms laws tends to be driven almost exclusively on emotional values and most participants are either pro or anti gun nut^H^H^Hlobbyists, so actually bringing empirical analysis in tends to be a fairly pointless exercise. The general standards of public debate on this subject tend to be of fairly poor quality and riddled with demagoguery and sophistry (look them up).

        You will never have a watertight system. One can also see with 20:20 hindsight that most of the people do mass shootings had previous form with the Police and the Police had grounds to revoke their licence if they felt it appropriate.

        I don't have a lot of time for arguments for psychiatric screening or 'legitimate' reasons for ownership. Estimates in the U.S. tend to run around 200+ million privately owned firearms. Implying that people who want to own firearms are somehow potential 'gun nuts' effectively requires one to make the argument that a very large proportion of the population of the U.S. are somehow of suspect mental fitness because they want to own a firearm. Fun as Yank-bashing is, that notion that half the population of the U.S. are potential wackos has no place in a debate with pretentions to rationality (see above).

        I grew up with guns. Both of my parents were on the NZ universities smallbore team, my father won a blue for shooting. A few years ago we had to do some legal stuff about property titles and our family lawyer (who went to uni with my parents) brought his target where he scored a 100.10 and my father had marked it. None of these people could even remotely be described as 'gun nuts.' and they certainly weren't of low IQ (an academic, a lawyer and a science teacher) or any sort of danger to society.

        I might even take up shooting again, and am probably more of a gun nut than any of them. However, I find it somewhat insulting that people should presume me to be mentally unstable simply because I enjoy shooting.

        God knows there are enough other reasons to.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Your maths, please show them

        I could mention Japan, which is legislated tighter, and I could mention Switzerland, which is much less so, both with lower gun deaths ratios than Blighty.

        If we're talking numbers, how about legal vs. illegal firearms deaths? Does restriction of ownership by well-trained and licensed individuals make sense according to the numbers? I think not, and then the effort is wasted. It would be far more effective tomake sure, say, the sports shooters form communities, creating a social structure to detect instability and offer help instead of silently escalating until an amok run. Not saying that's the be-all-end-all, just that it's a tack that I haven't seen do-gooders propose. It's all "this is bad, it therefore must be eliminated", completely disregarding any positive side there may be. And how else can it be? In their own minds that possibility has already been eliminated. Stupid gun lovers to have failed to keep up with the Joneses!

        Not entirely dissimilarly, there are very few countries that'll admit it when the inevitable "more rules!" after some incident turn out to "would not have prevented anything" or even "would not have applied to this particular perp, not even close". Finland comes to mind, though. Perhaps with their high rate of depression they have to look the truth right in the eye more often.

        Your assumption of "your own IQ registering" is a bit of a high jump, I say. But then, one trait of pressure groups is an unfailing belief in self-righteousness. Not much different from other groups with that trait in that respect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Actually done that way in NZ

          Licencing handguns in New Zealand is done by requiring membership and a certain level of participation in the club to get a license. This has the effect of peer reviewing members, which probably goes some way towards weeding out nutters. However, its main effect is to make it harder to use legal means to casually acquire a handgun for criminal purposes. Once you've purchased a handgun, you have to keep turning up to the club so many times a year in order to keep the licence.

          The system was set up so that handgun shooters could train for the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch and the general view of the people involved is that the system works quite well.

    2. Squirrel


      Anyone can own a shotgun. There's no land requirements, only a short criminal check.

      Only people with good cause and access to suitable land or range can get a full firearms licence. And then only single action (ie. bolt action) centrefire rifles or single/semi-auto rimfire rifles. Ammo type and suppressors are limited to what's on your licence and you have to show significant reason for requesting expanding ammo or suppressors. (I'm ignoring FAC air rifles, they're a special case)

      So to answer your question... yes. There are ~140,000 licensed owners in the UK with an average of 3.8 guns each. In 2008-09 firearms were involved in 0.3% crimes. Most illegal weapons are imported from the EU, notably eastern Europe.

      In reference to shotguns and to quote Hot Fuzz; "everyone and their mums packing around here." There are a LOT of shotguns.

      In the UK there is no significant anti-gun lobby because we don't need one. They do actually need to tighten it a little further tho' and require training before you get a licence. At the moment training is optional (via a third party) and down to the owner.

      And no, you can't shoot badgers ;)

  8. The_Police!


    when it will be called?


    Now I have seen everything!

    Mines the one with bullet ridden holes.

  9. Steven Knox

    Web app?

    Setting aside the question of appropriateness for this particular app, surely a better solution would be a web app? It would require fewer specialized programming skills (i,e, less money), reach a wider audience, and be less dependent upon certain whims.

    Aside from games and multimedia (and Flash support would obviate the need for those as well...), I've seen very few iPhone apps that wouldn't have been more appropriately built as web pages. The iPhone doesn't even have a majority in it's own market, and yet everyone appears determined to follow the hype and build an app. WTF!?

  10. Maria Helm

    RENEW people, RENEW

    It says to RENEW the license. So, these are people who have ALREADY BEEN APPROVED to have one, and probably DO have one. This does not make it easier for someone who doesn't have a license to get one. Don't Panic.

    1. Dave Bell

      It's bad timing

      The problem is that they've announced this at a stupid time, almost as if somebody needs to be told not to be silly. The big-three gun rampages of Hungerford, Dunblane, and Cumbria all involved long-term holders of Firearms Certificates, and I wouldn't want to spend money on any app to handle renewals until the politicians have done their thing.

      I can think of other reasons why the idea might still be in a project plan, setting up the back-office IT. The officer, or officers, managing firearms matters need to be part of an IT system, just to have a chance of spotting warning signs. It could turn a bit into Big Brother, but having some sort of IT app for filling in the data also has the possibility of catching silly little mistakes. I'm sure we can all think of possible ambiguities from squeezing UK addresses into US-based database designs.

      I would be quite happy to see an electronic form being filled in by the firearms officer, with the applicant present. That gives a chance of getting reliable data into the system. I'm not sure doing it remotely, iPhone or otherwise, would improve anything.

  11. Brian Miller

    Some web apps OK, but may get political ricochets

    I like some policing web applications. A few weeks ago some local hooligans did some minor vandalism outside of my home. I grabbed my camera and photographed them, and then I filed a police report online. I attached the shots, and then later I received a PDF of the accepted report.

    I think that web apps to handle routine matters are just fine, and they are quite convenient. There is really no reason for face-to-face interaction for license renewals. And, really, this is what it is: a license renewal. Licenses do not prevent the abuse of anything. We can codify a reaction to an act, but we will never prevent that act in the first place.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh iphone, I can imagine it now......




    Trigger Happy T.V. how very apt ;o)

    "Currently firearms applications require applicants to fill out the paperwork at pre-arranged police station meetings"

    Can't speak for Sussex but no, the forms are usually posted to the certificate holder a few weeks before expiry then posted back. Unless circumstances have changed a visit is not required or normally conducted.

    The county Firearms Licensing Office administers these matters, police stations are never involved. The poor beggars are usually understaffed and overworked. Online renewal makes sense and cannot impact safety by itself.

  13. skellious

    Bandwagons, guns and iCowboys...

    This country already has some of the worlds tightest gun laws, and I for one stand firmly behind them. I enjoy clay pidgeon shooting myself now and again and it has only made me all the more aware of the potential devistation you can cause to a human torso with a shotgun at close range. Think a hole the size of a plate... And that is just a shotgun with pellets in. A slug (single bullet) would be even more devistating, fortunately they are not allowed on a shotgun licence!

    Since it is hard to argue you grabbed a loaded shotgun in the heat of the moment (since you have to by law store the gun unloaded and locked in a British Standard gun safe and the ammo somewhere else) they are pointless for self defence [remember even if you point an unloaded gun at someone who does not know it to be unloaded you are under the law seen as pointing a loaded gun].

    There is no easy answer to the guns debate, but with deaths from guns a fraction of those in the US per capita, we should appreciate how much of an impact existing legislation has had.

    As for the iPhone app, it's a bit pointless and a web one would be much better (providing none of this is easily exploitable by ID theives...)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused.

    How do you give a special handshake over an iPhone app?

    I ask because - in my area - this seems to be the sole basis on which firearms licences are accepted or refused.

    1. Jim 48

      nudge, nudge, wink, wink

      You'd already have the 'square and compass' app to confirm your credentials ;-)

    2. Ball boy Silver badge

      Special handshake

      ...that's not a bad way to do it! To get into the rolled-up trousers and exposed nipple brigade requires a number of people to vouch for you and (I believe) most lodges still operate a 'black spot' policy: an anonymous system where any existing member can deny a new member access with no reason being required. Sounds like a pretty good system to weed out wierdos to me - far and away better than any number of iPlods... ;-)

      pip pip

  15. Hedley Phillips

    Article is incorrect

    You state:

    "Currently firearms applications require applicants to fill out the paperwork at pre-arranged police station meetings."

    That is incorrect. The FO comes out to your house after you have filled out and submitted the application/renewal with your Firearms Tax payment, sorry I mean licence fee. Otherwise how are they going to check your house/cabinet security?

    Getting back to the "There's an App for that"... I can't see how the iPhone app could allow you to attach 4 new countersigned Passport style photographs that are required for every application/renewal. And anyway, all the Firearms/Shotgun licence forms are already available online as pdf's.

    Seems daft to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Camera phone?

      Doesn't the jesus phone come with a camera? If they allow four facebook style mugshots as attachments in lieu, they're just getting with the times. Not so?

  16. Eddy Ito
    Black Helicopters

    What big Apps you have, Grandma

    All the better to track you with my dear gun owners.

    1. Winkypop Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Corrreeeeeect !!!!!

      That's more likely the reason for the investment.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    iPhone owners with guns?

    Well, that sounds like some scary fun.

    Anonymous, because I understand that the Apple market is legion.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    OK OK put the gun down.....

    and I'll jailbreak your iPhone!

  19. yossarianuk

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Surely if anything they will have more tighter regulation on gun control ?

    This sounds a bit less restrictive.

    Anyway, surely you would want an opensource weapon, that way you can be sure there no back doors.

  20. william henderson 1

    so how...

    do you submit the required 4 passport photographs or the countersigned/ witnessed application form?

    this sounds like shit stirring to me.

  21. Rumcajz

    save 3 million??

    The cost to the police of registering a handgun should be paid by the people who have handguns, as part of the registration fee. Creates a few jobs, keeps money flowing, and there is slight disincentive to own a gun.

  22. Ascylto

    Just wait ...

    ... until iPhone 5.

    You'll never guess what it's got ...!

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