BASC has released the following statement in response to the government today publishing its statutory guidance to the police on firearms licensing (the guidance is expected to come into force on 1 November):
The guidance is a result of a two-year consultation process and is not a direct response by government to the recent shootings in Plymouth.
BASC has been part of that consultation process and has been successful in securing agreement to remove or change aspects of the original proposals that were considered disproportionate.
BASC and the British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC) were also instrumental in changing the requirement for medical verification to be carried out by an individual’s GP.
Instead, verification can be carried out by a registered medical practitioner using a patient’s individual notes. This is an important concession for members faced with GPs opposed to shooting or who charge exorbitant fees and is why the BASC medical panel was created.
However, we are still concerned that the latest guidance does not demand that so-called ‘markers’ be placed on the medical records of firearms certificate holders. This is a significant failing that means there is potentially no medical monitoring during the life of the certificate. We would urge government to reconsider this aspect, which would enhance public confidence in the licensing system.
While previous guidance had no standing in law, Chief Constables will now be compelled to follow the new guidance or justify, on an individual case-by-case basis, if they do not.
BASC welcomes this as being a step towards a more consistent approach to firearms licensing across the differing police forces.
BASC remains concerned, however, that the extensive range of background checks listed in the new guidance could be applied to every applicant.
It has been suggested that such checks will only be activated if there are substantial concerns as to an applicant’s suitability to possess a firearm; this seems entirely reasonable and proportionate in protecting public safety.
But any shift towards instigating such checks on every applicant would create a wholly unworkable processes, leading to unacceptable delays and increased costs. We do not believe forces have the resources to undertake such wholesale checks.
We will continue to work with the other shooting organisations, police and the Home Office to make sure that the potential benefits of the statutory guidance are realised, while challenging implementation of any element that would be to the detriment of the shooting community or wider public.
BASC members with questions on the new guidance can contact our firearms team by clicking here.
Please continue to follow our news pages for more on the statutory guidance.