Countess faces lengthy wait for gun licence and brands £40 GP fee a “disgrace”
Another prominent figure is suffering from the delays all shooters are experiencing renewing shotgun licences
Many shooters have long been aware that the time it takes to receive a new shotgun certificate depends on where they live.
Now Establishment figures, like MP Ian Liddell Grainger and Lady Bathurst, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, are being affected too and voicing their complaints in the media.
GPs struggling with workload
A change in the law in April 2016, requiring GPs to inform the police if they have concerns about a patient receiving a firearms licence and be responsible for putting a firearm reminder code on the patient’s record, has exacerbated the issue. Police now have to wait for confirmation from GPs regarding an applicant’s medical history before granting and renewing licences.
Many GP surgeries are now also charging a fee for providing this service. Others report they are already struggling with a large workload and boycotting requests, stating they are not qualified to assess if an applicant has a serious mental illness affecting their ability to hold a firearms licence.
Lady Bathurst, who hosts the Vale of the White Horse Hunt every Boxing Day, criticised the £40 her GP levied for the service, saying it was a “disgrace”. She tweeted: “My doctor’s surgery have just demanded £40 – blackmailing me into paying them to give police a medical reference for gun licence. #disgrace.”
MP forgets to renew licence
Conservative MP for Bridgewater and West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger, has also been affected by delays. He was sent a reminder by his local police to renew his firearms certificate but forgot and was subsequently “appalled” at the amount of time it would take to issue a new one.
“Forgetting to check and renew a licence in time is a simple mistake that anyone can make – and I make mistakes like everyone else,” he said.
“But I cannot believe how long it’s going take to deal with a simple renewal of an existing certificate. Sixteen weeks to complete one piece of paperwork looks like utter incompetence.”
BASC receiving record number of enquiries
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) had more than 970 callers to their specialist firearms team in September 2016, with members asking for help.
Bill Harriman, BASC director of firearms, said: “The calls we receive from members are about a variety of topics, but the dramatic rise in recent calls has been down largely to delays in dealing with grants or renewals of certificates as well as problems with the involvement of GPs in the licensing process.”
The worst forces for delays, according to BASC, are Essex, Hampshire, Thames Valley, West Mercia, Warwickshire and Scotland.
BASC’s senior firearms officer Mike Eveleigh said: “We are getting a lot of complaints about delays in certificates. This is a job which two years ago might have just taken two to three weeks and is now taking up to nine months.
“It is not every police force that has delays, this is a postcode lottery on how certificates are dealt with depending on which part of the country you live. The problem is also due to police cuts and a lack of resources.
“We receive calls from people of all walks of life. It’s a very inclusive sport.
“It will be having a knock-on effect on these sports as we are quite frequently receive calls in relation to this from people who have waited months to get their licence renewed.”
Onerous responsibilities placed on GPs
Commenting on the issue, a British Medical Association spokesperson said:
“We advise that GPs have a legal obligation to engage with the statuary framework for the licensing of firearms,” she said.
“The central role of the GP in raising any concerns about issuing a licence remains in place. The BMA remains concerned about how this process has developed and the onerous responsibilities it places on GPs and is continuing to raise these issues directly with the Home Office.”
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