A reliable assessment of the mental health of firearm permit applicants presupposes large-scale information
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health a physician is not able to assess on the basis of one health check-up a person’s suitability for being granted a firearm permit. A reliable assessment of the mental health of a firearm permit applicant would presuppose large-scale information and examinations. In general, the health centres do not have capacity for producing such information, as is stated in the instructions issued by the Ministry on 6 November regarding the medical certificate required for obtaining a firearm permit.
The Ministry underlines that not even an extensive examination of mental health does guarantee that the assessment made at the time of examination and recorded in the medical certificate would reliably show that the person examined fulfils the health requirements for being granted a firearm permit in the future as well. According to the instructions the medical certificate is therefore the doctor’s opinion of the person’s health state at that moment.
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health a physician’s possibilitiesto assess the real suitability of a person for obtaining a firearm permit are very limited based on one visit to the doctor. This task is made even more difficult if the doctor does not have access to previous medical records on the person. In that case it is particularly important to state in the medical certificate that the conclusions about the person’s health state are only based on the information available and observations at the time of examination. A doctor has also a right to write in the certificate that he or she cannot take a stand on the case on the basis of his or her observations or the information obtained.
The instructions issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on 6 November 2008 are associated with the instructions issued by the Ministry of the Interior on 29 September 2008 on issuing and cancelling firearm permits. According to the instructions issued by the Ministry of the Interior the permit authority may demand the applicant to present information related to the conditions for issuing the permit. The permit authority may, for instance, ask the applicant to present a medical certificate of his or her state of health, if necessary.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health states that the medical certificate may be an important source of information when the police decide on firearm permits. The police however also use information obtained from other sources when assessing the mental health and suitability of the applicant.
The instructions issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will be in force until further notice.
For further information contact:
Director-General Päivi Sillanaukee, tel. +358 9 160 73313, +358 40 5328249 or Senior Medical Officer Tom Silfvast, tel +358 9 160 74131, +358 50 4141 485