Europe

Britain checking gun license applicants' social media, medical records

Starting Nov. 1, people seeking a gun license in the U.K. must agree to share their confidential information with authorities, the country's home office announced Wednesday.

The new statutory guidance comes after 22-year-old Jake Davidson killed five people before killing himself in Plymouth, England, in August, marking the country's first mass shooting in over a decade. Those killed in the rampage include his mother and a three-year-old girl.

"The UK has some of the toughest firearms laws in [the] world, but we must never become complacent about these high standards," British Home Secretary Priti Patel said in the statement.

"This new guidance prioritizes public safety above all else and we have taken considerable care to ensure it is comprehensive and enforceable, having worked closely with the medical, policing and shooting sectors," she added.

Davidson had posted YouTube videos filled with self-loathing and reportedly expressed interest in the "incel," or "involuntary celibate," community. The online community is a male-supremacy group, primarily made up of white men, who have been linked to numerous violent acts in recent years.

Weeks before the shooting, he had his confiscated gun and firearm license returned to him, and also admitted to assaulting two people, according to the Washington Post

Under the new standards, individuals will need to provide a medical form alongside their application, filled out and signed by a licensed doctor registered with the General Medical Council, the statement says.

"Doctors owe a duty of confidentiality to their patients, but they also have a wider duty to protect and promote the health of patients and the public," the new guidance says.

While British doctors have previously resisted providing confidential information to officials because it might discourage patients from seeking help, the new requirements were agreed upon during discussions between physicians, lawmakers and law enforcement.

"We are very pleased that this new guidance reflects the [British Medical Association's] significant contribution to its lengthy and complicated development," said Mark Sanford-Wood, a physician and deputy chair of the association. "Public safety is paramount and we are delighted that this finally sets the standards, clarifies the national process and provides a clear approach for doctors and police forces to follow."

Officers should conduct background checks if they need more evidence of an individual's stability, the guidance says. This includes officers interviewing members of shooting clubs, probation services and domestic violence agencies, as well as examining the applicants' financial records and social media posts.

"The need for medical records to be viewed by officers carrying out the licensing check is something policing has been encouraging for many years and have been utilizing as part of the Home Office scheme," said Debbie Tedds, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for firearms licensing Chief Constable. "The consultation process has been thorough and we welcome this addition to the guidance."

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