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

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

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

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