Licensing system needs overhaul
In his excellent article [ Rights
and Privileges, August issue], John Walker lays out an interesting array of facts but, strangely, misses out on some salient points.
There are 43 constabularies that have the power to issue shotgun certificates or firearms licences. It is generally understood that some of these provide a good service to those of us who use firearms either as part of our employment or for leisure and sporting interests.
Others have chief officers who are known to be antifirearms and against the personal ownership of firearms by private citizens. Interestingly, some of these constabularies have the worst record and reputation for service to gun owners.
It is long overdue that the entire firearms licensing process should be removed from police control, and a National Statutory Licensing Authority created, complete with a code of conduct and a legal obligation to process all applications/renewals throughout the UK to a single standard. Yes, local police forces would still need to be consulted with regard to an applicant’s criminal history, where such exists, and also to establish whether the police have any other reason to object to the issue of a licence, but at least the final decision would not be down to chief officers.
At the same time, the BMA, the GMC, and other doctors’ ‘unions’ should be brought to heel. There are many circumstances where doctors can be ordered (by a coroners’ court or a high court judge, to give two examples) to reveal a person’s medical history without having the patient’s or the next of kin’s permission.
Whilst John’s reference to submitting a Freedom of Information request under Section 3 of the Access to Health Records Act is indeed valid, and a salutary method of dealing with an uncooperative GP, it would take only a simple ‘tweak’ of the law (we do in any case have to declare any illnesses that might affect our ability to own/use a firearm and authorise the police to access our medical records), to compel GPS to supply factual answers to statutory questions, such as “Does Mr/mrs...... suffer from any of the following conditions (Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and the others listed) or illnesses that might prohibit them from safely possessing/using firearms, or cause them to be a threat to public safety?”
Supplying a factual answer (in exchange for a one-off fee) would not place any onus of responsibility on the GP, and would sidestep those who claim to be conscientious objectors. In cases where the applicant might disagree with his/her GP’S comments, it would be up to the National Licensing Authority to commission either examination by, or further reports from, a suitable specialist.
Paul Fievez, by email