POLICE chiefs in Cumbria say they will act on criticism following a report highlighting failings over gun licensing.

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The county force was said to have put the public at increased risk of harm, with problems including not reviewing licence holders and failing to flag up the presence of guns to officers.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, speaking about the national picture, also said lessons had not been learned in the wake of tragedies such as the west Cumbria shootings.

Taxi driver Derrick Bird left 12 dead and 11 injured during a killing spree in 2010, which ended when he turned a gun on himself.

Cumbria’s force was one of a number to have failings pointed out.

It prompted a response from the county’s assistant chief constable, Darren Martland.

He said: “The constabulary was aware of some issues following the HMIC’s visit and immediate action was taken to address these.

“We welcome the final report along with all its findings, which we will review and ensure any recommendations are implemented.”

On the positive side, Cumbria police, during licence renewals, contacted reference providers and automatically undertook home visits.

Officers also went to country shows where they had the chance to “interact” with certificate holders.

Mr Martland said the force gathered information regularly on firearms in Cumbria.

He added: “The report highlights our robust processes that work to act on this information, as well as our systems when it comes to granting renewals.

“Our officers work hard to keep the county a safe place and will continue to do so, taking into account advice in this report.” The findings were revealed following checks of the effectiveness of firearms licensing across England and Wales.

The report said Cumbria was one of three out of 11 inspected that failed to put in place safeguards based around assessments of its licensing department.

In March last year the national police expert on firearms licensing wrote to all forces to “prompt retrospective reviews of current certificate holders’ suitability” following changed guidance.

Then in May this year inspectors asked forces whether they had undertaken these reviews.

Cumbria was one of seven that had not. Seven forces inspected introduced processes that meant every incident linked to a licence holder or their house was automatically flagged.

But the other four forces inspected, including Cumbria, had a “less effective” system and “it was not being applied” every time.

In Cumbria inspectors reviewed five domestic abuse incidents and found relevant checks had only been completed in two of them.

The Countryside Alliance said the report was a welcome contribution to the development of a more effective regime.

But it added inspectors failed to acknowledge considerable work done in recent years.

Tim Bonner, chief executive, said: “Any incident that involves a gun is one too many. “However, we already have some of the most stringent firearms regulations in the world.”