Essex Police is planning to scrap home visits for people renewing their gun licences.

The five-year checks could now be done by post – raising fears about who could be holding a firearm.

It means firearms officers would no longer be able to assess the mental stability of the person on the doorstep or check how safely a gun is stored to reduce the likelihood of them being stolen in a raid.

Victor Chapman, has sold guns for the last 50 years from a shop in Marks Tey, Colchester, He said: “Going to somebody’s home would give police an idea of what they are generally like.

“If there’s a junkie son upstairs in bed you would want to have a nose, because I don’t want those sorts of people with guns.”

“It’s a difficult problem, we are already severely restricted.

“I sell guns everyday, obviously to the right people with certificates and transactions have got to be face-to-face.”

There are 21,241 people in the county who own a shotgun licence and 4,726 with a firearms certificate.

Last year, police revoked 49 shotgun licences and 12 firearms certificates because of concerns.

Former Labour Essex MP Angela Smith, now Baroness Smith of Basildon, said: “I think we’ve found with some of the people that have caused some problems with firearms and shotguns, it has been because there haven’t been appropriate checks taken.

“You can’t just say to someone once they’ve got a firearms certificate that it’s forever, there have to be some checks along the way.”

She is concerned Essex Police has no option to impose these changes because of Government cost-cutting.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are looking at ways to save money, but also improve efficiency.

“Home visits will continue for all new licence applications, but it’s proposed that a postal renewal service is used after five years which is when all licences have to be reconsidered.”

The police said a home visit would be carried out every ten years, but this could be made by local bobbies rather than specialised firearms officers.

He added: “It is proposed that neighbourhood policing constables will be utilised to visit certificate holders when required to assist with demand, leaving the high-risk visits to the firearms inquiry officers.”