BASC has provided answers to the questions that may arise as a result of the publication of new statutory guidance for firearms licensing. This list will be updated as implementation of the guidance evolves.
No. This guidance was produced as the result of a report in 2015 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the desire for more consistency in the application of firearms licensing policy and procedures between different police forces.
Yes. BASC worked with other organisations, particularly the British Shooting Sports Council, to modify areas of the guidance that were felt to be disproportionate or detrimental to the continuation of shooting sports in the UK.
Every firearm certificate application will now require a medical declaration by the applicant. This will need to be verified by either the applicant’s GP, or by another medical practitioner reviewing the applicant’s notes.
There are also a series of additional background checks that may be used. These are only recommended where there are clear concerns that an applicant could pose a threat to public safety if they possess a firearm. These include looking at social media accounts.
No. BASC runs a medical panel of members who are registered medical practitioners. With your permission, they can obtain your notes from your GP and verify your medical declaration. There is a cost for this, but it is less than £60. Your GP cannot refuse to release your notes and has to release them within 30 days.
Yes. Some GPs do not charge and some charge a nominal sum. If you consider the cost to be excessive, you can use the BASC medical panel doctors as outlined in Q4.
Yes. Unfortunately, over the last 20 years there have been several homicides and suicides that have been carried out by licensed firearms holders who have been suffering with mental health conditions. As well as being potentially avoidable tragedies, any such incident involving legally held firearms can be damaging to shooting. Therefore, any proportionate methods for reducing the risk are to be welcomed. The risk, however, can only ever be reduced, never eliminated.
BASC feels that without a marker system, medical verification is simply a snapshot of an applicant’s health. A marker would enable continuous monitoring of a certificate holder’s relevant health issues. BASC has long campaigned for a ten-year certificate and these ‘markers’ are integral to the delivery of that goal.
No. The decision of granting certificates lies entirely with the Chief Constable of each police force. It should be noted that the police have always consulted with the medical profession where there are potential medical issues; the new guidance simply details additional medical reviews that can be conducted by a force if issues are contested.
In absolute terms, yes. But GPs and all healthcare staff are bound by data protection laws. However, owning a smartphone, going on the internet, driving a car with a sat-nav, having a bank account and many other aspects of modern life potentially compromise security, because you leave an electronic record of your activities and locations. Other than living ‘off-grid’, there is no way of avoiding this.
A number of forces have been using GP verification for some time. For those that haven’t, there are likely to be some initial issues as the system beds in. But it would be hoped that these are teething issues and will not cause long-term problems. For members experiencing problems, BASC staff are there to assist.
The police will not be consulting your neighbours. This was in the original draft of the guidance but was removed after strong representation by BASC and other organisations.
There is provision for further background checks to be conducted if standard checks raise concerns. As covered in Q3, this covers social media accounts. But it should be noted that all the additional checks listed in the new guidance are already available to police forces and many already carry out such checks.
There have always been a small number of refusals when people apply for either a shotgun or firearms certificate. It may be expected that people with certain mental health conditions would be refused a certificate. This is to be expected, but many mental health conditions are transitory or can be successfully treated, and under these circumstances, a certificate could be successfully applied for at a future date.
Yes. Because it is statutory, a Chief Constable must justify on an individual case-by-case basis if they depart from the guidance. There are also timeline requirements for things such as suitability reviews that were not in place previously.
BASC exists to serve the interests of their members. To this end, BASC will always try and work with police forces to achieve the best outcome for its members. This is best achieved by working collaboratively with licensing departments and, as stated in Q13, the new guidance should help achieve a more consistent application of firearms licensing law. It is also in the interests of BASC’s membership that we lobby for the shooting community with all organisations that impact on shooting, including at the highest levels of government.
The main tightening comes from the improved level of consistency provided by the licensing departments. The majority of licence holders have already experienced medical verification – the new guidelines simply align the process for all applicants across all police force areas. Through BASC’s medical panel we are ready to deal with those applicants who have GPs who refuse to participate.
No. It does not apply to Northern Ireland – as firearms legislation is devolved. It applies to England, Wales and Scotland, with the exception of airgun licensing in Scotland.