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BMA criticises ‘unreasonable’ call for routine GP firearms checks

By Nigel Praities

GPs should be consulted before firearms licences are granted to identify potential mental health issues, a review by police chiefs has concluded.

In proposals branded ‘unreasonable’ by the BMA, GPs would have the requirement to inform the police if they have any concerns over the applicant’s mental health and if a full mental health assessment is needed before a firearms licence is granted.

The review by the Association of Chief Police Officers Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group comes after the case of Derrick Bird, who shot dead 12 people and injured 11 others before killing himself in Cumbria in June.

The report concludes there should be a ‘formal data link’ between the police and GPs so that they can raise any concerns over the applicant’s mental health.

Adrian Whiting, chair of the review and an assistant chief constable with Dorset Police, said: ‘The key improvements I recommend concern establishing formal data links between the GP, mental health and police services so as to enable medical professionals to be able to alert police to concerns regarding certificate holders.’

But Dr John Canning, a BMA spokesperson on the issue and a GP in Middlesbrough, said: ‘Any new system would need to consider what role GPs could realistically play. It would be impossible for doctors to predict whether patients who own firearms could harm others in the future and it would be unreasonable to ask this of GPs.’