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Medical involvement in firearms is complex. It needs to achieve a balance between the public interest, medico-legal risks to doctors and those who wish to have access to firearms.
These tensions were exposed by the response to our 2016 guidance – overwhelmingly you said it was unworkable. Although we quickly moved to protect doctors from legal risk, significant problems remained – with calls from all sides for a clear, streamlined system that keeps the public, and doctors, safe. The fallout from 2016 also put significant strain on our relationships with those stakeholders whose involvement was essential to improve the system.
The last few months have finally seen a thawing of many of those relationships, and we now find ourselves in a much more productive dialogue with partners for the benefit of the public, while retaining protection for doctors. In particular, we have welcomed the increased readiness of the Home Office to listen to our concerns and, more importantly, to understand them. Critically, we have made clear to the Home Office that responsibility for assessing the risk presented by those with access to firearms rests exclusively with the police – it is not a role for doctors. We have also been clear that any use of medical flags does not mean doctors have an active duty to monitor the health of those who have access to firearms. We have also met with the Countryside Alliance and found significant common ground. That which brings us together far outweighs that which divides us.
There is still a considerable amount of work needed to bring us to a point where we have a unified national licensing system into which medical evidence fits seamlessly. A system that protects public and doctors alike. But the dialogue has begun. As issues become better defined through discussion across disciplines it illuminates where our guidance requires better explanation and a clearer narrative. With this in mind we have this week updated our guidance on flagging and conscientious objection. Doctors retain the right to principled opposition to involvement in the licensing process.
None of this signals change to our core position – it simply clarifies it. Your response to these updates will be instructive – and we are committed to listening. Finally, it looks as if a sensible, coherent national licensing system could be within reach: good for doctors, good for the public and good for patients.
Mark Sanford-Wood is BMA GPs committee deputy chair
Read the BMA guidance on the firearms licensing process
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I just had the third GP practice lically recently to refuse to let us know if a prospective police armed response officer had anything in the past that might be relevant prior to them going operational - on the basis of this guidance. We are pretty short of AFOs and this isn't all that helpful to be honest. It seems reasonable just to check there isn't something OH could do with exploring surely?
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In my personal situation, I am a member of 2 shooting clubs, and its one of my main hobbies, I applied for a Firearms certificate approximately 2 months ago, and I noted on my application that I have had a previous bout of depression.
Prior to applying I had already spoken with my doctor about me applying for an FAC and SGC, and he told me that he had no issues about me being issued firearms and as such he would let the police know when the time came.
Well I gave the letter sent to me by the police, asking for a report on my history, 33 days ago and the police are chasing me up for this report. I've spoken to my surgey several times and everytime I'm given a different reason as to why it hasn't been done, I kind of feel I'm being pushed from pillar to post
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