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Government ‘betrayal’ on GP fees for new licences

A U-turn by the minister responsible for firearms licensing "reneges on the agreement reached in 2016" and will push up certificate costs significantly

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An agreement reached by all parties two years ago is to be changed - a month before local elections

Proposals to make every gun owner pay a fee to their GP when applying for a shotgun or firearm certificate have been declared as a betrayal by Government.

Following a recent meeting with Nick Hurd, the minister responsible for firearm licensing, BASC understands the government plans to abandon the system agreed in 2016.

This decision follows a campaign of non-cooperation by the British Medical Association (BMA) to the agreement on improving medical involvement in the licensing system reached following extensive negotiations by the Medical Evidence Working Group, which included representatives of the Home Office, police, the shooting community and doctors.

Comment from BASC

Christopher Graffius, BASC’s director of communications, said: “This will be regarded by the shooting community as a betrayal by government.

“It will discriminate against those who require a firearm as a tool of their job, damage participation in shooting sports and its benefits to the country and alienate a community which is a natural supporter of the government a month before the local elections.”

GP fees for new gun licenses

The proposals will see the government renege on the agreement reached in 2016 which stated that applicants were not required to pay a fee to GPs for their response to an initial police medical letter sent on application. It ensured that applicants would not be disadvantaged by a GP’s refusal to provide medical information.

It was also agreed that GPs would implement a system that saw them add an encoded “marker” to the medical records of those who own guns. The shooting community considered this a sensible step towards ensuring public safety.

While the Home Office does not keep records, BASC believes less than one per cent of initial firearms licensing applicants are rejected on medical grounds.

Mr Graffius added: “BASC has been told by the Home Office that the government is planning to insist every firearms certificate holder consults their GP and pays a fee on application and renewal of their certificate.

“The figures are not yet clear, but this will be in addition to the fee already payable to the police and could increase the total cost of an application by more than 50 per cent.

“This is an abandonment of risk management in the licensing system, may contravene Treasury rules and is completely disproportionate because we believe that less than one per cent of certificates are rejected on medical grounds.

“These proposals will damage the relationship between the shooting community and the government.

“Agreement was reached by all parties, including the doctors, who sat around the table for many, many hours before approving the licensing scheme in 2016.

“If these proposals are introduced without consultation, it will reflect badly on both the government and the medical profession and, in the eyes of the shooting community, erode confidence in both.”

BASC had previously asked the Home Office to reconvene the Medical Evidence Working Group in an attempt to strike an agreement with the medical profession that would satisfy all stakeholders.