The Countryside Alliance supports a firearms licensing system that involves continuous monitoring by the medical profession, best achieved by placing an enduring marker on the certificate holder’s medical record, provided that there are proper safeguards in place to ensure the security of the certificate holder’s personal details and provided that the system is fair to legal firearms owners.

 

A satisfactory continuous monitoring system should in due course lead to an increase in certificate life from the current 5 years. There should be no reason why shotgun and firearm certificates should not have a 10 year duration. This would ease the burden on police forces with no negative impact on public safety.

 

Such an objective was envisaged as part of the process agreed in 2016 by the Medical Evidence Working Group. Unfortunately, that process has failed.

 

The Medical Evidence Working Group, which was convened by the Home Office and which involved the police, the shooting associations including the Countryside Alliance, and medical representatives including the British Medical Association (BMA), agreed a detailed process which included GP verification of the medical details provided to the police by an applicant for a shot gun or firearm certificate. It was agreed by all parties that there should be no expectation of a fee for the initial GP’s check of the patient record. Regrettably, however, the BMA subsequently stepped back from that agreement and endorsed the charging by GPs of a fee for the initial records check.

 

In addition, the BMA has gone further by supporting ‘conscientious objection to gun ownership’ as a way for GPs to avoid participating in the process. By doing so they are nullifying the whole objective of medical involvement in the licensing process, which is to provide an enhanced level of scrutiny to benefit public safety. The Countryside Alliance believes this represents a breach of the BMA’s guidance on ethics.

 

The Countryside Alliance wishes to see the agreed system implemented, and will support Government in ensuring the full involvement of the medical profession in the process as envisaged.