Record number of firearms licensed, statistics reveal
While figures for shotgun certificates and firearm certificates have remained largely stable, the 477,888 firearms covered by those certificates represents a high since 1995 when the statistics were first collected for England and Wales.
The National Statistics research showed that there were 141,820 firearm certificates on issue at the end of March 2012, a 0.3 per cent increase compared with a year earlier, and 562,696 shotgun certificates, a 0.3 per cent decrease over the same period.
There were 11,502 new firearm certificates granted in 2011/12, an increase of two per cent from 2010/11. A total of 31,254 new shotgun certificates were granted during 2011/12, an eight per cent increase compared with 2010/11.
And 349 firearm certificates were revoked in 2011/12, a fall of 14 per cent since 2010/11 and the first decrease since 2005/06.
The number of shotgun certificates revoked fell by six per cent, from 1,379 in 2010/11 to 1,301 in 2011/12.
The 3,417 registered firearms dealers in March represented a seven per cent increase on last year, and was another high since 1995.
A sharp rise in the number of dealers (up 68 per cent in the last six years) has been caused by the requirement for firms that sell air weapons to become registered dealers.
The regulations surrounding firearms have become increasingly stringent in the UK since the Hungerford tragedy in 1987, when Michael Ryan went on the rampage with a series of weapons. That led to some types of firearm being restricted.
More recently handguns were banned entirely following the Dunblane school massacre in Scotland.