Senior police officers were “completely distracted” by the G7 summit in Cornwall two months before five people were killed in a shooting in Plymouth, according to an investigation.
Jake Davison, 22, killed his mother, Maxine Davison, 51, after a fight at their home in the Devon town on the night of August 12, 2021.
He then shot dead three-year-old Sophie Martyn, her father Lee Martyn, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, in the Keyham area of the city.
Davison, a crane operator apprentice, pointed the black Weatherby shotgun at himself before armed policemen caught up with him.
Superintendent Kara Sherwood, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said at an inquest into the deaths in Exeter on Friday that the firearms department was “fundamentally understaffed” in the run-up to the incident.
The G7 summit saw world leaders meet at Carbis Bay in June 2021, and was logistically the largest and most complex event ever to be held by Devon and Cornwall Police.
Ms Sherwood said: “Senior officials went off to plan the G7 and got completely distracted.”
He disagreed with Dominic Adamson KC, representing the families of the victims, who asked if the security of world leaders was more important than firearms in the region.
Ms. Sherwood was also asked what she would do at the scene of a violent offender whose weapon had been seized.
She said: “I wouldn’t return the gun if it was a particularly violent assault.
“It’s a high-risk decision.”
Davison applied for a shotgun certificate in July 2017, and one issued by Devon and Cornwall Police in January 2018, which was valid for five years.
The force revoked Davison’s license and seized his shotgun in 2020, after he assaulted two teenagers in a park, but returned them in 2021, weeks before the murders.
The inquest heard that Davison stated that he had autism on his application and consented to his GP sharing information about his medical history with police.
However, Davison’s GP refused to provide an opinion to police in assessing whether he should be awarded a shotgun certificate.
Addressing the families of the victims, Ms Sherwood said: “It is unimaginable what they are going through.
“It has affected all of us personally and professionally.”
He added: “We, and others, will learn from this.”
Chief Superintendent Roy Linden, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said earlier in the inquiry that officers should have obtained medical evidence on Davison when considering his application for a shotgun licence.
He told the jury: “The opinion of a GP should have been sought.”
Linden said that according to the 2017 Home Office guidance, officers “may come to their own conclusions about the significance of the medical evidence provided” if they are unable to obtain it.
He had previously said the GP’s refusal to provide information for Davison’s application was “not uncommon” at the time, but acknowledged there was no set policy on what to do when that happened.
The inquiry also heard that officers in Devon and Cornwall were not effectively trained to process gun license applications at the time.
Mr Adamson KC told Mr Linden: “There was no curriculum, no specific training program, no specific training for firearms investigation officers.”
Mr. Linden responded, “There was an absence of effective training, I’ll say that.”
Mr Adamson also asked: “Anyone within the Devon and Cornwall police force who comes into contact with someone with a certificate, whether it be a firearm or shotgun, and is involved in an incident of violence or has health problems mental health that represent a risk, should they withdraw the certificate of firearms and ammunition and explosives?
Linden said, “Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward.”
The investigation continues.