Police Scotland is working in partnership with the NHS and shooting organisations to ensure that the country's 70,000 plus holders of firearm, shotgun and air weapon certificates are fully supported should they be at risk due to health or wellbeing concerns.
Chief Inspector Audrey Marsh, from Police Scotland's National Firearms and Explosives Licensing, said, "We work very closely with our key partners and colleagues in the Scottish Government, Home Office and shooting organisations to create a shooting environment that is safe, compliant with firearms legislation and does not disadvantage our certificate holders.
"We have a medical information sharing protocol in place with 97 per cent of GP practices throughout Scotland, regarding any concerns they may have about patients who hold firearms, and this helps to keep certificate holders and others safe.
"Police and shooting organisations rely on honest, responsible certificate holders to inform police if they are diagnosed with or treated for any relevant medical condition. This forms part of the declaration signed by applicants when they apply for a firearm or shotgun licence.
"An important benefit of partnership working is that together we are committed to safeguarding the welfare of certificate holders by being alert to and identifying any concerns early. We realise that certificate holders and their families and friends may be reluctant to speak to police and raise concerns, for fear of having their guns removed.
"Together we want to reassure the shooting community that any action taken will follow engagement with their GP, if a medical concern is identified, and discussion with the certificate holder and will be proportionate, based on risk and take cognisance of all the circumstances.
"Police Scotland’s priority is to ensure public safety, operate a firearms licensing process that delivers a quality service to certificate holders across our diverse communities in Scotland and keep people safe.
"We need communities to inform the police of any concerns that they have about their own or other certificate holders’ welfare, even if this is a situation that may affect someone’s ability to safely possess guns at that time. These are often temporary situations and can be as a result of a marriage breakdown, employment challenges, bereavement, physical or mental illness, alcohol or substance misuse, farming issues, financial difficulties or anything else at all that may have a negative impact on a person’s wellbeing.
"We are already frequently contacted by responsible certificate holders and their families with concerns about their loved ones and people regularly volunteer to relinquish their firearms until such time as any issue has resolved itself or we have received an assurance from their GP that they are not a danger to themselves or others.
"Police Scotland encourage this proactive responsible approach and appreciate that we could be dealing with working farmers, for example, whose livelihoods may be affected so we will endeavour to return firearms as soon as possible. We will also consider other measures such as enhanced security, remote storage or temporarily sharing guns with other certificate holders."