Wednesday, 25 March 2020

IMPORTANT FIREARMS LICENSING NEWS FOR MEMBERS DURING CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

Firearms Licensing in Scotland

A joint statement 25th March 2020


Police Scotland, like all police services in the United Kingdom, are facing unprecedented demands at a time of national crisis in dealing with the effects of the Covid – 19 pandemic.


We, the principal membership shooting organisations of the Scottish Firearms Licensing Practitioners Group, recognise the difficulties faced by Police Scotland and their staff and fully understand that it cannot be business as usual given the unique circumstances we are all facing.  We do not live in normal times.

Police Scotland have made us aware of the interim arrangements that will be operating as they seek to deal with the demands of an emergency service of the current situation, hampered by diminishing resources as staff either fall ill or self-isolate.

Police Scotland are suspending the processing of most applications for grants of either firearm, shotgun or air weapon certificates and applications for variations or visitor permits.  We are aware that at this time applications for visitor permits have reduced dramatically in view of travel restrictions and given the current operating restrictions in non-essential retail premises, it is likely that demand for variations will also be small so the impact of this on these services should be minimal.

The processing of certificate renewals will still take place and those seeking to renew will be contacted by Police Scotland in due course.  Applications will be taken in context of applicant activity prior to this pandemic and will not be viewed negatively due to the current social restrictions in place.  In view of the latest Government messaging for the management of Covid-19, renewals will take place remotely, without the need for home visits. Police Scotland are acutely aware of the demands on General Practitioners at this time and will adopt a pragmatic approach with respect to the requirement for General Practitioner involvement in firearms licensing.  Police Scotland are keen to reinforce that as each case will be judged on its merits it is unable to provide definitive guidance for every scenario.  This is understandable.

If an application is to grant or renew a certificate for employment purposes (e.g. gamekeeping, professional pest control or working in the oil industry) Police Scotland have said that they will do their utmost to process these applications as best they can, and we support this prioritisation.

Police Scotland have also taken the decision to return centralised decision making back to the processing centres during this time to allow the policing divisions to deal with their pressing demands.  This will allow for decisions to be made quickly and consistently and will hopefully ensure Police Scotland do not need to rely on the eight-week extension or the issue of temporary Section 7 permits currently available to them, which operationally can cause problems.

To be clear, we collectively understand that these are critical times for the country.  It is not business as usual and this must be fully understood.  We do hope that, when the country returns to a more even keel, the commercial, personal and sporting needs of Scottish communities are recognised and that visitor permits and variations are dealt with quickly to allow businesses and the shooting communities to pick themselves up and move forwards to enjoy the wider rewards that an active target shooting, game shooting and deer stalking community provides.

During these uncertain times, we understand that pressures can increase in respect of employment concerns and also anxiety in relation to health.  The members of the Scottish Firearms Licensing Practitioners Group, including Police Scotland and Scottish Government, have been working on a leaflet explaining why it’s important to say if you’re not okay, recognising the challenges of poor mental health and provide some advice about what help is available to certificate holders (as well as their friends and families) should they have concerns.  It also explains the police position in respect of such matters.  Due to the current crisis, it has been decided to publish this material now, ahead of formal publication, to get this key message out that support is available.  It is important for the whole shooting community, including friends and families, to make themselves aware of this advice and where they can turn to for support.  This advice will be published on the respective websites.

These are unprecedented times and key workers are being asked to perform important roles while no doubt worrying about the future, the welfare of their families, loved ones and themselves.  We ask the shooting community to be pragmatic and understanding. Please respect the latest Government and medical messaging and limit contact with the firearms licensing departments unless it is a matter of urgency.

By working as one Scottish shooting community, we can limit the impact this virus can have to ensure life can return to normal as soon as possible.  We thank you for your support.


British Association for Shooting and Conservation (Scotland)

Gun Trade Association

Scottish Association for Country Sports

Scottish Countryside Alliance

Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Scottish Target Shooting


Firearms and Mental Health. 
Introduction 
EVERYONE’S mental health is important and at some point, in all our lives the majority of us will be affected by circumstances or feelings that can impact negatively on us. It is important that members of the shooting community, as well as their family, friends and colleagues, understand that it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok
For some,a gun may be a vital part of their work and livelihood. For others, it may be the method by which they engage in sporting activities and interact with people at their local clubs or events. In Scotland, we recognise that there are many good reasons for legally possessing a gun; whatever your reason, possessing and using guns will be meaningful to you. 
This leaflet is to help explain the support available and will provide details of who you can contact, what steps may be taken and some of the possible outcomes. This cannot be an exhaustive list as every case is different and will be treated as such, but it will help demonstrate that there are different ways concerns may be handled and managed and in a supportive, understanding and proportionate way. 
So, if you have concerns about your own mental health, or the mental health of a family member, friend or a shooting companion, don’t be afraid to talk with us because we’re here to help. Remember, it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok - it is the right thing to do. 
It’s more common than you think 
Experiencing low mood or suffering poor mental health or distress is common and affects around 1 in 4 of the population at any given time and quite likely many of us at some point in our lives. 
Research tells us that asking for help is the most important step in dealing with mental ill health. Talking openly about mental health is vital in challenging the confusion that still surrounds this common health condition. 
Promoting Positive Mental Health 
Shooting, be it involved in work or as a pastime, can also play an important role in supporting and promoting positive mental health. 
Whether it be from the focus and achievement gained from the sporting side, sense of satisfaction gained from working or benefiting the environment, or the social element from being around people with a shared interest, all these play a vital role in promoting and maintaining positive mental health. 
The role of Police Scotland 
The priority of Police Scotland is to ensure public safety and protect the communities across the country. Shooting organisations are key partners of the police who manage the licensing of nearly 75,000 firearm certificate holders currently. 
The police have a duty to manage risk on a daily basis but also work alongside us in seeking not to disadvantage certificate holders and deal with each situation presented in a 
sympathetic and proportionate manner. This applies to those experiencing mental or other health matters too. 
The role of shooting bodies in Scotland 
A collective of Scottish bodies involved in shooting, whether from a sporting, conservation, or vocational interest, work together with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government on the Scottish Firearms Practitioners Group (please see back page for a full list of bodies involved in developing this leaflet). With 1 in 4 people in the UK admitting to experiencing poor mental health at some point, it is inevitable that those in the shooting community will have experienced concerns, either about themselves or those around them. 
We all recognise the challenges faced by Police Scotland but also the reservations of certificate holders speaking out about poor mental health. All of the partners have come together to deliver the joint message that it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok. This joint work aims to help to dispel concerns about how such matters will be handled, whilst always ensuring public safety, including the safety of the certificate holder, is prioritised. 
What role can I play? 
Whether you are a certificate holder or a family member, friend or work colleague of a certificate holder, it is important that you know what you can do, and who you can speak to, if you have concerns about your own mental health or the mental health of someone close to you. Thankfully in the UK instances of certificate holders taking their own lives or the lives of others with legally held guns are extremely rare, and we want to keep it that way. The best way of doing this is looking to provide people close to us with the best support possible and we can all play a role in doing this. 
What can the Police do? 
Guns can be an essential part of a working life, especially in the gamekeeping or deer stalking world. That is widely recognised by everyone involved in firearms licensing, be that certificate holders, shooting organisations and the police. If the police have any concerns regarding a certificate holder, they will treat each case on its own merits. 
There may be times when an initial move to secure an individual’s guns for safety is the most appropriate option. This allows the police to establish whether there is any genuine risk to the certificate holder, the people around them and the wider public. This does not mean that the certificates themselves will necessarily always be revoked, it just allows the police to have temporary control of the guns until such time as the situation can be fully reviewed and the police can ensure the certificate holder can safely possess guns at that time. 
The police will gather all relevant information to help assess the risk and this may include, speaking with family and/or friends and if necessary, employers to establish their views in respect of the persons suitability to possess guns. The police may write or speak to the person’s GP to confirm any medical diagnosis, how any illness impacts on their life and how they are coping so that the police can make an informed decision on their suitability at that time. 
For this, and many other reasons, it is essential that members of the shooting community have a positive, open and frank relationship with their GP. 
Once the police have established the facts and concluded their assessment, they may decide to: 

  •  Return the guns to the certificate holder if appropriate to do so;
  •  Come to arrangement where the guns are stored remotely;
  •  Suggest that the certificate holder surrenders their certificates and then reapply when
  • their health has improved;
  •  Revoke the certificates, only if appropriate to do so, considering what they have
  • learned.
  • It is important to remember that the police will always prioritise public safety, which includes the wellbeing of the certificate holder.
  • Where can I turn to for help?
  • Remember, it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok and there are a number of organisations who you can turn to for help and advice and support in relation to mental health, be it about yourself, a family member, friend or colleague.
  • Below are the contact details for organisations able to help or signpost you in the right direction. Other organisations, the details of which can easily be obtained online, can help.
Samaritans 116 123, text 07725 90 90 90
Support in Mind Scotland 0131 662 4359
Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) 0141 530 1000
Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution
0300 111 4166

Breathing Space  0800 838 587                                                                                                        NHS 24: 111                                                                                                                             Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust 0300 123 3088
Police Scotland 
Firearms Licensing North 01463 720484
Firearms Licensing East  01592 418424
Firearms Licensing West 01786 895580
Other sources of information in Scotland 
Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) 01350 724 228                                         Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) 0131 344 4640
Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) 01738 587515                                                       Scottish Target Shooting 0131 467 2489
National Rural Mental Health Forum
Scottish Land and Estates 0131 653 5400 

BASC Scotland 01350 723226

Mental ill health can and does affect anyone. It is important to talk this through and importantly, together we can help people get the help they need. It really is OK to tell us you’re not OK.