Wales

Gun owners licence change plans 'fundamentally flawed'

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Media captionThe move has been called "fundamentally flawed" by those who already have licences

Gun owners have criticised plans to tighten guidelines on issuing firearms licences.

Under the current system, police ask GPs to provide an applicant's medical details, but they are not obliged to give it.

So the Home Office wants to put the onus on the applicant providing a medical certificate.

But the move has been called "fundamentally flawed" by those who already have licences.

Ceredigion-based shooting instructor Meurig Rees said people who shoot are being unfairly penalised for having to provide information which should be obtained by the police.

"When we look at it from a shooter's point of view, it's a right mess to be honest," said Mr Rees, a country officer for the British Association of Shooting and Conservation.

"The medical checks are there already. It's the inconsistencies on the medical side of it - certain doctors' surgeries can charge anything from £20 to £100 for the information and it's just not right.

"We shouldn't be paying but the onus is coming back on us as shooters all the time."

Image caption Meurig Rees said applicants should not be paying for the checks

The Home Office has found not all GPs respond to police requests and some charge varying amounts for the service.

In some cases, firearms certificates have been issued without medical information, which flags up any mental health issues or possible risks from owning a gun.

The highest number of shotgun licences in Wales and England are held in the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

Last year alone more than 15,000 shotgun licences were issued and more than 4,500 firearms certificates. 

The numbers tend to be higher in rural areas, where people hold guns for a variety of reasons, including the need to shoot predators to protect livestock. 

Dyfed-Powys Police said it would not issue a licence without medical information.

Deputy Chief Constable Clare Parmenter, said public safety was paramount.

"We need a standardised process for the whole of the UK," she added.

Image caption Dyfed-Powy Police's Deputy Chief Constable Clare Parmenter said public safety was important

"We are very thorough and have a good working relationship with our GP practices - they're very supportive in providing information but the new consultation would speed up the process for everyone involved."

Speaking on behalf of the British Medical Association, Dr Phil White, a GP in Y Felinheli, Gwynedd, said there were many reasons why doctors do not always provide the information.

He said: "We are allowed to disclose if the public is at risk from someone who has a firearms licence - putting a marker on their record is a way of doing this.

"But there are also GPs who feel strongly that no-one should have firearms in their homes and decline to comply with the regulations."

In a statement, a Home Office spokesman said: "We have some of the toughest firearms controls in the world and we will do everything we can to ensure it stays this way."

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