November 29 2021 | News
Legislative changes recently introduced by the government means that laws surrounding gun ownership are set to tighten further. According to the official government website, from the beginning of November, no applicant will be given a firearms license until the police have reviewed their medical information from a registered doctor, laying out whether or not the person has any relevant medical history such as mental health, neurological conditions, or substance abuse. Prior to this, it was up to the individual police forces on whether a medical was enforced or not, now it is compulsory across the UK.
Detailed statutory guidance has been published by the Home Office, with a clear framework that police will need to follow when looking at gun licence applications. It is the first time in the history of gun legislation that the police will legally be required to adhere to the guidance and it is hoped that this new change will help improve standards and consistency in police forces throughout the UK.
After a shocking incident in Plymouth where five people were shot and tragically killed on 12th August, the Home Secretary made it very clear that the new guidance will be closely and regularly reviewed and kept up to date with anything further that can be learned from the ongoing investigation into these deaths.
To keep in line with the new changes, people will have to provide a medical pro forma as well as their application, filled in correctly and signed by a registered doctor. The doctor who signs the form and confirms the medical information needs to be registered with the General Medical Council and have a license to practice.
The guidance has been developed with extensive collaboration with the British Medical Association (BMA), plus policing partners and shooting representatives, and it includes lessons from past shooting incidents.
The guidance also details other areas the police should be reviewing before permitting a gun license. This includes looking at an applicant’s social media, financial history, interviewing connections, or checking with domestic violence or public protection units. It is in cases where the police deem that more evidence is required before granting a license where this is most important.
Background checks that can be done by police forces are already quite extensive, covering everything from criminal convictions and previous clashes with law enforcement, to evidence of domestic distress, unorganised debt, or even simple dishonesty. Also, existing laws state that a home visit is completed by the police for first-time gun license applicants, to make sure they have complete confidence in the applicant’s suitability to own a gun with no risk to themselves or the public. Two credible references for a firearm and one for a shotgun must be given before a license can be provided.
A public consultation regarding the statutory guidance and the arrangements for medical checks of applications was also held and the government’s response has been published and is available to read through the government website. The guidance officially came into effect on 1st November and was quickly published to ensure police forces had enough time to review it and put changes to their processes in place.