FROM THE DIRECTOR
This time a year ago we had just received the draft of the new EU Regulation on de-activated firearms andthe proposed update on the 1991 EU Firearms Directive (91/477/EEC). Yet to come was the Law Commission Report and the Policing & Crime Bill, which was the outcome of the Law Commission’s Report.
Of at least equal significance we had a Referendum, one Prime Minister resigned and a second lady First Minister took over, the other political parties suffered, and still do, from upheaval, and, to everyone’s great surprise, Donald Trump is now President Elect of the United States. Neither can we forget all those who lost their lives to terrorism in France, Belgium and particularly for us in England, the tragedy of the murder of Jo Cox.
At the end of 2016 we can look back at one of the busiest years of my time at the GTA. The EU Regulation (EU 2015/2403), came into force on April 8th 2016 and has caused not only considerable upheaval in the world of de-acs but it has brought into very clear focus the power of the EU Commission to dictate to Member States. We are currently stuck with draconian changes to de-activation specifications which may well bankrupt some of those companies involved.
The new EU Directive is currently finishing its Triloge process in Brussels and we await a final iteration which will be imposed on us in the New-Year. We, and our many colleagues, have been back and forth to Brussels either personally or in writing for a full year offering suggestions, Amendments, clarification and, sometimes, eternal damnation of our ‘masters’ in Brussels. We are fortunate however to have had Vicky Ford, a UK MEP, to act as Rapporteur (serving as Chair of the Committee), at the EU Parliament and she has worked tirelessly to understand the issues and manage the process and we are truly grateful to her, and her team, for all her efforts.
The published Directive, in November 2015, would have curtailed many of our shooting activities, strangled our trade and generally have made our lives more controlled way beyond what was either practical, or politically necessary. Thanks to Vicky Ford, our negotiators from the Home Office and all of us who worked so hard, the current version of the Directive is less damaging than the Commission proposed.
Needless to say when we, theUK, invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and start the process of leaving the EU all these issues will, yet again, fall back into the melting pot. This is not the place to speculate on what will happen when we leave the EU, I will leave that to others and the media until we are in a position to comment with any clarity.
POLICING & CRIME BILL
Turning to the Policing & Crime Bill, we may now rest a little easier. The report Stage in the House of Lords has just been completed and we now have only Third Reading then the Bill will return to the Commons for the final stages.
The Bill, a Government initiative, deals with some of the issues which spring from the Law Commission recommendations and will, all being well, bring welcome changes to our day to day trade and shooting activities. Firstly, Section 5 ammunition is on course to be re-categorised to Section 1. (We have been fighting for this for at least the last ten years). Firearms will have a new definition, that of anything over one joule muzzle energy will be deemed to be a firearm (there is an exemption for airsoft allowing slightly higher power). Component parts will now be defined in law. Antiques will have a new definition. There will be an offence to possess tools with ‘intent’ to convert imitation firearms to become firearms. New controls on ‘defectively de-activated firearms’. Authority for the Secretary of State to charge for Section 5 Authorities. A new ‘limited’ extension of firearm and shotgun Certificates at renewal. Changes to ‘Guidance’ which will make Chief Officers have regard to the Guidance. Last but not least, a welcome change to the definition of ‘Occupier’ in Sections of the Acts which will make life easier for those who lend either shotguns or rifles to those who do not have Certificates.
The Bill first saw light of day in February 2016 and will probably see Royal Assent early in the New Year, and come into force around two months later.
SECTION 5 AMMUNITION
GTA members will be well aware that the Association does not ‘blow its own trumpet’ about any successes in which they have had a hand in achieving, preferring to work behind the scenes and lobbying quietly with the various Authorities with whom we are in almost daily contact. However, this is one time where we will claim a considerable portion of the success in achieving the changes to the controls on Section 5 ammunition and, particularly, its transport. Colin Greenwood worked on resolving this issue back in the early days of the Millennium, originally through the Regulatory Reform Order process, and we have continued the struggle right up to the drafting of the Bill and based on work done by the Law Commission to which we gave evidence in the early sessions of the work.
If, as expected, the Bill receives Royal Assent the Association can at last tell members that the ridiculous situation, and the cost, surrounding the transport of Section 5 ammunition will be overcome for once and for all.
The Policing & Crime Bill has taken much of our time these last few months and, thanks to our President, Lord Shrewsbury, I have been able to brief him, and others, in the House of Lords, and have sat through more than ten hours of debate in their Lordships’ House.
SCOTLAND AIR WEAPONS
Scotland and the Air Weapons & Licensing Act: As we now all know, the deadline for applying for a Certificate for an air weapon in Scotland was October 31st and that date has now long passed. Up to the cut-off date 8,300 applications had been received. Since the cut-off date a further almost 1,400 applications have been received. We are told that the late applications will not be dealt with until after the New Year. Applicants will therefore have to lodge their air weapons with Certificate holders or RFDs after 1st January 2017 until the applications are processed. 16,900 airguns have been handed in and 37 clubs have applied for registration. There are a range of charges for the certification process, depending on age of applicant and possession of firearm or shotgun certificates but the general Certificate costs £72.
We need to wait and see final figures (which will not happen until all certificate holders, possessing airguns, reach the end of their five year cycle), but, at that point, we shall be asking questions of the Scottish Government as to what has happened to the presumably vast numbers of the 500,00 airguns in circulation which will not have been licensed.
I sit on the Firearms Practitioners Group run by Police Scotland and am satisfied that Police Scotland are doing their absolute utmost to keep up with the extra demands on their time occasioned by the Air Weapons Act. I am also in regular touch with Scottish Government Officials and will continue to do what I can for our Scottish members who are dealing with this unwelcome addition to legislation.
TRANSPORT OF FIREARMS
Transport of firearms. Yet again TNT have struck. This time it was a letter (circulated in one of our e-mail bursts on 24th October 2016), which stated that, since the takeover of TNT by FEDEX, TNT would, from November 14th this year, no longer carry anything firearms or ammunition related. However, we are awaiting a further meeting, requested by TNT, to see if anything might change. We will let you know if there are changes.
Parcelforce have been very successfully and efficiently carrying all firearms except Section 5 since the beginning of the year and we meet with them on a regular basis. Our thanks go to all at Parcelforce who are doing a splendid job of working with us and moving firearms quickly and without any fuss.
We met again recently with Circle Express on the subject of the movement of ‘dangerous goods’ and Marc Millar and his team are meeting with some of you in the hope that they may offer new opportunities for the trade. Much of this will depend on the outcome of the Policing & Crime Bill.
HIGH STREET BANKS
The situation with banks does not seem to improve and, as per the last Newsletter, we are currently collating information from members in order to take the issues to either the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), or the Financial Ombudsman Service. Should you be experiencing problems with your banking arrangements please get in touch with Christine at the Secretariat.
GUN TRADE DINNER
On the 17th November nearly 100 of us enjoyed a splendid evening at the Victory Services Club in London wining and dining in style at the Gun Trade Dinner. The dinner, brilliantly organised by Sam Perry and Karen Codling of the Birmingham Proof House, raised £1010.00 for the Gun & Allied Trade Benevolent Society and we were entertained by David Gunson ( a retired air traffic controller, blessed with excellent wit and many stories). The dinner has become a firm favourite with the trade and we look forward to 2017 and thank Sam and Karen for all their efforts in such a worthwhile cause.
It only remains for me to thank our President, Lord Shrewsbury, our Chairman, Edward King, and all Council Members for their terrific support of our work and, equally importantly, Graham, Christine, Fiona, Stephanie and, of course, Shane at GTA Exhibitions, without whom none of this work would be possible.
Merry Christmas and a Happy & Prosperous 2017.
I look forward to seeing many of you at ShotShow, IWA and/or Game Fairs next year.