Doctors may have to countersign gun applications

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 17 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:379

All applications for gun licences would have to be signed by a doctor to verify a patient's medical history under proposals put forward this week by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee on control of handguns. The BMA, however, is adamantly against such a proposal, saying that it would give the public a false sense of security and could lead to doctors being made scapegoats if anything went wrong. The committee decided against the introduction of compulsory medical or psychiatric tests to determine whether an applicant was fit to possess a firearm.

The committee's report came out exactly five months after 16 young children and their teacher at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, were shot dead by Thomas Hamilton, who then shot himself, using a hand gun which was one of several legally in his possession. Revulsion at this act has fuelled a nationwide campaign to ban hand guns in Britain. The home affairs committee, however, has intensified the controversy with a divided report in which the Conservative majority, on the casting vote of the chairman, Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, came out against either a total …

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