BASC is challenging a decision by Merseyside Police to change its firearm licensing procedures.
The force has stated that all applications for the grant and renewal of firearm and shotgun certificates must now be accompanied by a GP’s letter. Merseyside will not consider the issue of certificates until the applicant’s GP has responded. In the event a GP will not provide a letter, Merseyside will accept a copy of the applicant’s medical records.
The policy change, which affects around 4,500 firearm and shotgun certificate holders, applied to all new applications from 1 May 2018 and for all renewals from 1 August 2018.
The force's website states that some GPs will charge for verifying applicant’s medical information, but the decision to charge is a matter for the GP.
Christopher Graffius, BASC's executive director of communications and public affairs, has asked Merseyside's Chief Constable Andy Cooke for a meeting and has also written to the force’s Police and Crime Commissioner and six elected MPs to raise concerns and request meetings to discuss the issue.
Mr Graffius said: "We want an efficient, cost-effective, robust system of firearms licensing that protects public safety and provides excellent service to the shooting community.
"This policy change is causing confusion, concern and disquiet within the shooting community.
"We have written to the chief constable to request a meeting to discuss the medical record check policy, to seek clarity on queries and to find a workable way forward for all involved."
Merseyside was highlighted in BASC's second annual review of firearm licensing as having added almost a month to the time it takes to grant certificates. (https://basc.org.uk/blog/key-issues/media-key-issues/basc-publishes-latest-review-of-firearms-licensing/)
Mr Graffius added: "We remain concerned that the unilateral implementation of a medical record check policy by Merseyside Police risks further increasing delays.
"We share the force's aims around reducing the risk to public safety but we remain to be convinced that the policy change will achieve this."
He added: "We would recommend that Merseyside Police focuses on further improvements in its firearms licensing service rather than breaking ranks with Home Office guidance and implementing its own medical checks policy."
In his letter to the chief constable, Mr Graffius asked Mr Cooke why there was no prior consultation with BASC or the 4,500 firearm and shotgun certificate holders who will be impacted by the policy; how he will guarantee that GPs will charge a consistent fee for medical checks and how he will guarantee that GPs will put an encoded reminder on certificate holders’ medical notes in case medical issues arise during the life of the certificate.
He also requested a copy of the impact assessment for Merseyside Police’s medical checks policy and details of who produced it.
BASC has also written to all of its members in Merseyside to alert them to the change in policy and encourage them to contact their MP.
For the latest policy updates on the medical involvement in firearms licensing in England, Wales and Scotland, click here: https://basc.org.uk/medical-involvement-in-firearms-licensing/