The Home Office is consulting on whether GPs’ engagement with the firearms licensing process should be
GPs have been encouraged to take part in the consultation on a number of new recommendations made to the Government in relation to firearms licensing.
Statutory guidance published in 2021 introduced the requirement that the police must be provided with relevant medical information from an applicant’s GP or other doctor otherwise the application for a certificate is declined.
It confirmed that police officers – and not GPs – would be legally liable for judging whether someone is able to possess a firearm, and for checking medical records of applicants.
The consultation said that GPs’ compulsory engagement ‘may help GPs to flag health issues affecting firearms owners’ suitability to police more quickly and easily’.
There was also a recommendation for the Government to investigate the merits of medical practitioners and the police conducting interim checks on firearms licence holders during the period between the grant of a certificate and any application to renew.
The Home Office said it will also consult with the BMA and the RCGP as to whether neurodevelopmental disorders should be added explicitly to the list of relevant medical conditions in the statutory guidance.
The recommendations which the Home Office is now consulting on also include:
- A new statutory power for the police to search a certificate holder’s home enabling immediate seizure of firearms, shotguns and ammunition.
- Updating the mandatory prohibitions that automatically prevent someone from having a certificate.
- Reviewing the length of time that a certificate is granted, which is currently for five years.
The consultation said: ‘The Government has made no decision yet on the recommendations on which we are seeking views, and we will carefully consider all views received on the various recommendations.
‘Public safety is our priority, but the measures to manage the risk to public safety must be proportionate and balanced with the fact that the vast majority of licensed firearms holders are law abiding and cause no concern.’
These recommendations were made to the Government by:
- the Senior Coroner for Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon following the inquest into the deaths of those shot and killed by a licensed shotgun owner in Keyham on 12 August 2021.
- the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) following its investigation into Devon and Cornwall Police’s decision-making in relation to the possession of a shotgun and shotgun certificate by the shooter in Keyham.
- the Scottish Affairs Select Committee following its review of firearms licensing regulations in Scotland, which followed a fatal shooting on the Isle of Skye on 10 August 2022.
Last year, the Government worked with NHS England and the BMA to introduce a digital marker for use on GP medical records to support information sharing between doctors and the police, which was introduced in July 2022 and is now available in all surgeries in England.
The digital marker, which acts as a way to help better monitor the physical and mental health of those who have a firearms licence or have applied for one, was paused on EMIS a week after its start because of concerns about its accuracy but was relaunched in February.
As part of the consultation, the Home Office said it will support the rollout of the digital marker with the Welsh and Scottish Governments, if they decide they wish to adopt a similar digital marker in Wales and Scotland.
Following the consultation, if the Government concludes that legislative changes are necessary, it will consult formally on specific legislative proposals.
The consultation closes on 23 August.
The consultation question
Q14. Do you consider that GPs’ engagement with the firearms licensing process should be
Source: Home Office
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