KEEPERING WITH THE NGO
If you apply for a firearms or shotgun licence, do you need to pay your GP to write to the police? Tim Weston clears up the confusion
Recently my colleagues Sarah Read (the development officer for the North of England), Alan Barrel (our dedicated firearms advisor) and I have been getting an increasing number of calls about charges by GPs for firearms and shotgun applications.
As we have been getting closer to the five-year renewal cycle that all police forces follow, the volume of calls we are getting has increased considerably on this one specific issue. The basic premise is that your police firearms licensing authority will ask you on the application form if you have any medical conditions that you should declare. These include things like stress or anxiety, neurological disorders, mental health problems and so on. The police will also write to your GP and ask the same questions. This seems to be where the problems occur.
If you do not have any existing medical conditions then your GP does not need to respond to the police’s request for the information; they should only respond if you do have a problem and the GP feels that the police need evidence of that. As the applicant you are expected to cover the cost of this letter from the GP to the police and currently there is no standard charge.
But let’s take a few steps backwards and look at the vast majority of firearms and shotgun certificate holders who do not and never have had any medical conditions that the police need to know about – what happens to these letters then?
Your police force will ask the GP to respond within 21 days if they need to be notified of anything. What we have found happens next is that your GP sends you an invoice asking you to pay for the letter. However, if you have no medical conditions to declare then you should simply refuse to pay and let the 21 days expire. This will not prejudice you or your application – your GP is only required to write if you have a condition that the police should know about so you are doing nothing wrong.
What will happen once the 21 days have expired? Well, the police will simply continue to process your application as normal. If there is a problem that the police need to know about, you must and should declare it, and you will then be responsible for paying for the GP’s letter. Any subsequent reports that might be required are usually done to the cost of the police and not the applicant.
The reason we have been having so many phone calls is that people are not fully aware of how the system is going to work. There is also a huge variation on charges. We have heard of one GP practice in the North of England which is charging £95 to write a letter and if there is nothing to report they are still taking the money and letting the 21 days expire! Some GPs are charging £35 and others around £50, but you must remember that you actually have nothing to pay unless you do have an existing medical condition.
The other major change with regards to the medical record side of your firearm and shotgun certificate is that the police will now ask for a marker to be put on your medical file to show that you hold firearms or guns. This is to allow the medical professionals to notify the police if your circumstances change with regard to mental or physical health. Personally, I think that this is a good idea and one that we, the shooting community, should not have a problem with at all.
If you are coming up to renewal time remember to get your application in promptly; give the police enough time to do all the checks. Make sure you sign everything you are asked to and provide them with the information that they need and you shouldn’t have any problems.
‘If you do not have any existing medical conditions then your GP does not need to respond to the police’s request for information’
Firearm and shotgun licence applicants shouldn’t pay a GP letter fee unless they have a medical condition to declare