In a letter to the Countryside Alliance the British Medical Association (BMA) have strengthened their demands for firearms licence applicants to pay for their GP’s participation, a position they have reaffirmed in an updated Firearms Guidance and accompanying blogpost on their website.

The Countryside Alliance had written to the BMA outlining concerns over the association’s guidance on new firearms licensing procedures, expressing concerns that GPs following the BMA’s advice were inappropriately attempting to charge members of the public.

The recently adopted model of GP’s involvement in firearms licensing, which came into effect in April 2016, was an attempt to improve systems in place to ensure that those licensed to possess firearm and shotgun certificates were medically fit. As part of the extensive discussions that led to the adoption of this new model, it was agreed with all stakeholders that applicants were not expected to be charged for the initial medical check that formed the cornerstone of this new process. However, despite being a part of all these stakeholder discussions, once the model was implemented the BMA appeared to alter their position, and began to tell GPs to either charge the applicant or claim a ‘conscientious objection to gun ownership’ and therefore not take part in the process.

This latest BMA Firearms Guidance entrenches their position by giving GPs draft letters to respond to the Police Force and raises once again the opportunity for GPs to refuse to partake by claiming a ‘conscientious objection to gun ownership’. A blogpost on the BMA website accompanying the new guidance argues that doctors should be allowed to charge enormous sums from members of the public applying for a shotgun licence on the basis that some forms of shooting are expensive, an extraordinary position for medical professionals to be taking over a question of public safety.

Liam Stokes, Head of Shooting at the Countryside Alliance, said:

“The Countryside Alliance has always believed that a working system with continuous medical monitoring and full cooperation from stakeholders will see an improvement to public safety. However, if the BMA continues to urge GPs to circumvent the process then the new system is clearly not going to be able to deliver any such benefits.

“We are also extremely worried about the BMA’s suggestion that GPs claim a ‘conscientious objection to gun ownership’. We believe that this represents a significant departure from the BMA’s own code of employment ethics, setting a dangerous precedent in suggesting a public service can be withheld by medical staff on the grounds of disapproval of certain lifestyle choices.

“It is regrettable that the BMA have shown no inclination to improve a system that is clearly now not working, but are instead talking about the maximum amount of money that they could charge for a system that was supposed to improve public safety. It is now absolutely clear that for the benefit of our members and the whole shooting community that all parties need to be brought back to the table to sort this mess out.”

Notes to Editors:

Countryside Alliance Press Release [September 7th 2016] – Further issues with new medical system for firearms licensing

British Medical Association Blog [March 3rd 2017] – Updated firearms guidance for GPs

British Medical Association Guidance [March 3rd 2017] – Firearms licencing process: GP support guide