Last reviewed 7 December 2021

The Home Office has finalised new guidance confirming that police officers, and not GPs, will be legally liable for judging whether someone is able to possess a firearm and for checking medical records of applicants.

The new document, Firearms Licensing: Statutory Guidance for Chief Officers of Police, standardises the process and workload for GPs across the UK. Published on 20 October and enforced from the start of November, it sets out how applicants will have to ask their GP to complete a medical proforma as part of their firearms application form, and the process will be the same for the renewal of certificates.

The guidance clarifies that doctors should not be asked to give general access to an applicant’s medical record “as this may result in doctors being in breach of the Data Protection Act 2018”. It adds: “Nor should they be asked to either endorse or oppose applications. Responsibility for the decision about whether a person is suitable to be granted a certificate lies with the police, not the doctor.”

The document says doctors may charge a fee for supplying information to the police. If the information shows that a medical report is required, the GP can charge a fee for this too. If the police still want to obtain a more detailed report after having received further information, they may request it from the applicant’s GP and should “meet the costs associated themselves”.

Certificates can’t be granted in the absence of medical information but it is the chief officers who will “consider” this information and “assess any issues regarding medical suitability”.

The guidance lists relevant mental conditions that could prevent the applicant from safely owning a firearms license. They include depression or anxiety, dementia, or alcohol and drug abuse.

Doctors are required to 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. The guidance says the police may approach the applicant’s GP to obtain “relevant medical information both during the application process and at any time during the validity of the certificate if there are concerns about the applicant’s continued fitness to possess firearms safely.”

When a firearm or shotgun certificate is granted, the police will contact the applicant’s GP to ask them to add a firearms marker to the patient’s medical record on a “best endeavours basis”. This will remind the GP that they may need to notify the police if a person begins to suffer from a relevant medical condition, or a relevant condition worsens significantly, affecting the person’s ability to possess a firearm safely.