GP charges for certificate holders are reasonable, says Alasdair Mitchell
Some members of the shooting community still appear to be living in a parallel universe. It’s time they woke up to reality, for all our sakes, says Alasdair Mitchell
For some certificate holders applying for a renewal, it seems to come as an unpleasant surprise that doctors want payment for conducting the requisite scan of medical records on behalf of the police. Welcome to Earth; how was Mars? (Read more on doctors charging for shotgun licences.)
In truth, such work does not form part of the GP contract. Nowadays, if you want to use this private service, you must expect to pay for it — just as, say, scuba divers pay a hefty fee for their medicals. Expecting busy GPs to do free work for recreational gun users is fanciful.
Yes, you can make the case about public benefit. But recent events have shown us that healthcare professionals are prepared to go on strike for higher pay, arguably putting patients at risk. The public duty ethos of the medical profession is not what it was, apparently.
A fee of around £50 for a GP to examine medical records seems to be quite reasonable to many of us — though I have heard of calls for 10 times that amount. To be fair, how much would a lawyer charge for equivalent work?
Commercial outfits have now sprung up to meet market demand, and BASC has a panel of doctors its members can access for a moderate fee.
And what about the certificate fees themselves? Well, they are going to go up. Perhaps by a lot. Those gun owners who blame shooting organisations for everything bar climate change need to recognise what they are up against. This isn’t the US, where there is a constitutional right to own guns and about 40% of households contain at least one firearm.
Here are some of the recent comments from campaigners: “Around 1% of the population of the UK owns a gun, yet these people, mostly men, have dictated policy on gun control for years. They can do this because they are very well connected to the country’s Establishment, particularly within the Tory party. “…
If we want to do the job of licensing guns properly, it will have to be paid for. Currently, gun owners pay the equivalent of £16 per year to license as many shotguns as they want. No wonder the police don’t have the time or manpower to do a proper job.
“We want to see one simple licensing system for all lethal guns rather than the illogical dual system that treats shotguns as if they are less lethal than rifles. Each gun should be separately licensed and a good reason given for wanting the gun. Licences should be renewed every two years, rather than five years as they are now.”
Now, you or I may take issue with these rather simplistic claims. But if you are an MP and acutely aware of the electoral cycle, such sound bites may be highly seductive. We need to recognise this threat and deal with it, just as we have done with so many challenges over the years. I remain optimistic. But our task would be less onerous if some habitual moaners did more for our common cause and wasted less energy on internal squabbling.