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Medical Questionnaire – get it before completing the application!

New Statutory Guidance – Medical Evidence

New Statutory Guidance concerning the ‘Suitability’ of applicants for firearms and shotgun certificates was published in November 2021. In July 2022 a new ‘agreement’ was announced with GPs who will place a marker on patients records and alert police if there is a change in the patient’s condition which might affect their possession of firearms. This can be from any UK doctor registered with the General Medical Council. This allows you to get the form signed by another doctor if your own doctor has a ‘conscientious objection’ to firearms ownership. Most GPs will charge a fee, but it shouldn’t be more than £50 as it is a short tick box form.

All applicants for a first certificate, or a renewal, now have to obtain a signed certificate from their doctor. The form asks if the patient suffers, or has in the past suffered from, the following conditions:

acute stress reaction or an acute reaction to the stress caused by a trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder

suicidal thoughts or self-harm or harm to others

depression or anxiety

dementia

mania, bipolar disorder or a psychotic illness

a personality disorder

a neurological condition: for example, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s diseases, or epilepsy

alcohol or drug abuse

any other mental or physical condition, or combination of conditions, which may affect the safe possession of firearms or shotguns.

The list above is not intended to be exhaustive. Doctors should consider any other mental or physical condition which may affect the individual’s safe possession of a firearm or shotgun, now or in the future. This last sentence is important. There may be other mental and physical conditions which might, in the doctor’s opinion at least, be likely to affect a person’s ability to possess firearms safely.

Applicants for a certificate, or a renewal of one, will be asked whether they have ever suffered from any medical condition listed above, or from any other condition which might affect safe possession of firearms now or in the past.

On the application form you are asked the same questions. It is very important to be honest and accurate. The police will usually refuse an application if you fail to mention something in your past they ask about. This applies to medical conditions and previous convictions and cautions. The guidance is clear, a failure to disclose something which you should have disclosed will usually result in the certificate being refused. This is the case even when the condition/conviction itself would not have prevented the certificate being granted. The reason for this is that you are expected to be completely honest with the licensing department. If not they cannot trust you.

There are problems with this policy. Sometimes applicants do not remember matters in their past, although it is unlikely a court will accept that you don’t remember going to court for that shoplifting charge. Take the questions seriously, try and remember everything, even that 30 year old speeding conviction.

With medical issues there is sometimes a further problem. It is in the discretion of a doctor what they explain to their patient.  We have had a number of cases recently where clients have not only forgotten a medical issue from 20 years ago, it was not explained by their doctor. One example: A man lost his wife several years ago. He sees his doctor saying he is not feeling his best and having difficulty doing his work or sleeping. His doctor prescribes a short course of tablets. They are anti-depressants. He is feeling better after 6 months and thinks no more about it. He is never told his doctor has diagnosed depression. On his application form he has said ‘no’ to all the medical questions. Unfortunately, his now doctor (the previous one retired years ago) has put ‘Had brief period of depression following loss of wife to cancer’ on the form for the police. Certificate refused because he lied.

In this example the applicant didn’t lie. The doctor had not told him ‘you are suffering from depression’ probably on the basis that was likely to make his situation worse.  

There is a simple lesson from this. Get the certificate from your doctor before you complete the application form. If any issue is mentioned you can then raise it with your doctor and answer honestly on the form.

The Statutory Guidance is here:

 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-guidance-for-police-on-firearms-licensing The BMA guidance to doctors is here: https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/gp-practices/gp-service-provision/the-firearms-licensing-process