The Home Office has announced new firearms and shotgun licensing procedures which will come into effect from 1 November 2021. The main change is that all applicants will now be required to provide evidence from a medical practitioner regarding their fitness to possess firearms.
This involves the use of a new application form which will be available on line from each Police Force and will include the necessary medical verification forms to be completed by a registered medical practitioner. This will mean little change for those members who live in an area where the Police have already been demanding involvement from a GP before they will consider an application. Any fee required by the doctor must be met by the applicant, not the Police.
The NGO, along with the other organisations, was fully involved in the consultation process which started in July 2019. We secured some provisions, including that it does not have to be your GP who signs the forms, this effectively brings market forces into play as well as providing an alternative to those who may have a GP who objects to shooting. It permits those companies, usually launched by doctors who are involved in shooting sports, who are providing this service to continue to do so.
The guidance also advises on the type of enquiry which the Police should or could make which will, in many cases, be more intrusive than hitherto. We were unable to secure provisions that Police should be properly trained or that the term of certificates should be increased to 10 years. We will continue to fight for these.
In name this is statutory guidance for the Police, in practice it will not prove to be that effective since the provisions require only that the Police and Courts should have regard to it and only depart from it as necessary on a case to case basis. The introduction of the new national medical certification form may however deter some forces from invention their own more intrusive style of questionnaire.
There will no doubt be teething problems. To overcome these please read the advice presented from your own Police force and act upon it. Get your renewal applications in as soon as possible and in all cases at least 8 weeks before the expiry date of your old certificate.