Doctors with a "conscientious objection to gun ownership" have been told by the British Medical Association they cannot simply ignore letters from police licensing authorities.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has issued new guidance instructing GPs that they ” must engage in the process of firearms licensing when requested to do so”.

Following discussions with BASC and the Home Office, and taking legal advice, the BMA has also told GPs who refuse to deal with firearms licensing requests because of “conscientious objection” that they should help patients find another doctor to assist them with their application.

This latest development follows a record number of BASC members reporting issues with GPs while applying for licences and the BMA advising GPs not to provide shooters’ medical information to the police without a fee or if they object on ethical grounds.

Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms, welcomed the news. “The BMA should be applauded for recognising that its stance
was not in line with the guidance originally agreed following extensive negotiations between themselves and the Government, police, BASC and other medical representatives such as the Royal College of General Practitioners and the General Medical Council,” he said.

“This should go some way to improving a situation that is, in part, causing unacceptable licensing delays. BASC will continue to work to ensure that those applying for and renewing shotgun or firearm certificates are not charged for the initial contact with GPs.”

The new BMA guidance still says that GPs may charge for processing firearms licence applications but it re-emphasises that doctors cannot simply ignore the initial contact letter from the police or delay a reply, as this places them at professional risk.

Peter Glenser, BASC chairman and a barrister specialising in firearms law, said: ” It is encouraging that the BMA has seen sense by beginning the retreat from a position that was wholly at odds with the guidance agreed by the Home Office.

“Now we urge it to tell doctors that they must meet their obligations entirely by fully accepting that they must co-operate with the licensing process without charging for the initial enquiry.

“BASC is continuing to tell members they should not pay any fee demanded by their GP for responding to the initial police medical letter.”