Shooting organisation calls for new Essex firearms licensing policy to be withdrawn
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The UK’s largest shooting organisation has strongly opposed a change to firearms licensing in Essex which means medical information must be provided in every application.
Under Essex Police's new policy, anyone wishing to apply for a firearms or shotgun licence in the county must obtain a statement of verification from their GP every five years, whether they have a medical condition or not.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) says the policy change will leave applicants with potential delays, high fees and a postcode lottery system due to GPs being under no obligation to participate.
BASC also says the move pre-empts the the outcome of the government consultation on statutory firearms guidance, is contrary to Home Office guidance and is in breach of the 2016 Home Office medical evidence working group agreement.
Essex Police said the current process needed to be reviewed and the force's primary motivation for the policy change to applications is "one of safety".
MORE: People who want firearms licences in Essex must now supply medical evidenceTerry Behan, BASC Eastern regional director, said: "BASC wants to see an efficient, cost-effective, robust system of firearms licensing that protects public safety and provides excellent service to the shooting community. This policy fails on all accounts.
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"By enforcing medical involvement Essex Police are leaving applicants at the mercy of GPs, risking confusion and delays within the licensing system.
"The policy should be withdrawn at once while we await the Home Office consultation findings."
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Chief Inspector Matt Cornish, from Essex Police, said the medical information ensures the force's decision making is "as rigorous as possible".
"The primary motivation for the change is one of safety," he said.
"We feel having a medical declaration that someone is deemed fit to be a licence holder greater ensures our decision making against the legislation is as rigorous as possible.
"The changes in Essex follow the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) stance and aligns us with a number of other forces.
"This procedural change will also streamline and speed up the process for applicants given all available material will be available to an officer who will make the final decision on whether a licence is awarded."