BASC has welcomed updated guidance from the British Medical Association (BMA) telling GPs they ‘must engage in the process of firearms licensing when requested to do so’.
The BMA has also told GPs who refuse to deal with firearms licensing requests because of conscientious objection that they should help patients find another doctor.
Previously, the BMA advised GPs they may refuse to engage with the firearms licensing process based on conscientious objection to gun ownership but the updated guidance says this refusal would now have to be undertaken in line with General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines.
This, in turn, requires GPs to notify patients of this objection in advance and, if the service is not easily available from another doctor, ‘the GP that objects has a professional duty to put in place alternative arrangements for the provision of the relevant services or procedures without delay’.
The BMA’s update says that ‘after discussions with BASC, the Home Office and after taking external legal advice’ it is now telling GPs to ‘comply with all relevant legislation’.
Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms, said: “The BMA should be applauded for recognising that its stance was not in line with the guidance originally agreed following extensive negotiations between themselves and the government, police, BASC and representatives from other medical representatives such as the Royal College of General Practitioners and the GMC.
“This should go some way to improving a situation which is, in part, causing unacceptable licensing delays. BASC will continue to work to ensure that those applying for and renewing shotgun or firearm certificates are not charged for the initial contact with GPs.”
The new BMA guidance still says that GPs may charge for processing firearms licence applications but it re-emphasises that doctors cannot simply ignore the initial contact letter from the police or delay a reply, as this places them at professional risk.
BASC has reiterated its advice that those applying for and renewing shotgun or firearm certificates should, in accordance with the agreement between medical representatives and the government, not pay any fee demanded by their GP for responding to the initial police medical letter.
When the guidance came into force in April, the Home Office stipulated a fee would only become justified if the licensing authority required further medical involvement beyond the initial response.
Peter Glenser, BASC chairman and a barrister specialising in firearms law, said: “It is encouraging that the BMA has seen sense by beginning the retreat from a position that was wholly at odds with the guidance agreed by the Home Office.
“Now we urge them to tell doctors they must meet their obligations entirely by fully accepting they must cooperate with the licensing process without charging for the initial enquiry.
“BASC is continuing to tell members they should not pay any fee demanded by their GP for responding to the initial police medical letter.”