UK’s gun laws strengthened with new medical arrangements
New statutory guidance will tighten up existing laws on gun ownership and mean that medical information must be provided in order to obtain a licence.
No one will be given a firearms licence unless the police have reviewed information from a registered doctor setting out whether or not the applicant has any relevant medical history – including mental health, neurological conditions or substance abuse.
Comprehensive statutory guidance has been published by the Home Office which sets a clear framework for police to follow when considering applications. For the first time, police will be legally required to have regard to the guidance, to help improve standards and consistency across forces in the UK.
Following the shocking shooting in Plymouth, where five people were killed on 12 August, the Home Secretary made clear that today’s guidance will be kept under close review, and updated with any further lessons learned from the ongoing inquiries into these murders.
From 1 November, individuals will be required to provide a medical pro forma alongside their application, filled out and signed by a registered doctor. The doctor providing the medical information must be registered with the General Medical Council and have a licence to practise.
This guidance was developed following extensive cooperation with the British Medical Association (BMA), as well as policing partners and shooting representatives, and incorporates lessons learned from previous shooting incidents.
The statutory guidance also sets out other areas the police should review before granting a licence – including examining an applicant’s social media, financial history, interviewing associates, or checking with domestic violence or public protection units. The importance of this is stressed in cases where the police consider that more evidence is needed before authorising a licence.
Background checks which can be conducted by the police are already extensive, spanning everything from criminal convictions and previous run-ins with the law, to evidence of domestic turmoil, unmanaged debt or even dishonesty.
Existing laws also require a home visit by the police for first-time applicants, to ensure they have utmost confidence in an individual’s suitability to own a gun with no risk to public. Two credible referees for a firearm and one for a shotgun must be provided before a licence can be issued.
A public consultation on the statutory guidance and the arrangements for medical checks of applications was also held and the government response has been published here.
The statutory guidance will come into effect on 1 November 2021, and has been published now to ensure that police have sufficient time to review it and incorporate changes into their processes.