Recent tragic events in Cumbria have brought the problems with gun licensing into sharp relief. The police take most of the responsibility for who should be allowed a shotgun license: but it is doctors, usually GPs, who are asked to sign to say that there are no health concerns with gun ownership.
GPs are used to dealing with risk. Uncertainty is the name of the medical game: I’m not uncomfortable with dealing with unknowns. But one has to acknowledge that uncertainties exist, and make sure that decisions which one makes takes congnisence of them. This is the problem: I don’t know any test which helps to tell me who is going to be safe in owning a gun. Even if I have no note of ‘mental instability’ (and even if I know what that is) in the notes – and even if this was a good predictor of a problem – there is no guarantee that has never existed. Because of the lack of evidence in directing me towards good decision making, I’ve had a personal policy of not signing these certificates for anyone.
This paper gives a good overview : and this editorial has wise words: “it is impossible to predict with certainty who might be unsafe with a gun.” Medical certification gives a seemingly professional approval where, really, none can exist.