Following the 2,700 responses to the consultation on restrictions on lead in ammunition, the HSE justifiably added six months to their consideration period to assess the huge amount of data they received. The timeline will now see them make their recommendation to Ministers towards the end of the year. The restriction proposals cover everything from lead shot to air pellets and, as we in the industry know, the technical, performance and suitability of lead and alternatives is a hugely complex area. I am reassured that the HSE and Environment Agency teams are studying the evidence in detail. They have asked supplementary questions to shooting organisations and have started visits to ranges and shooting grounds to understand the factors. The GTA is conducting further trials to provide more detail on the performance characteristics of lead alternatives in a number of small rifle calibres.
On shotgun ammunition, we will continue to fight for longer transition periods. The 18 months originally proposed is completely unworkable. Even with our manufacturers embracing change, the long lead times for sourcing machines that are optimised for loading steel cartridges and the worldwide shortage of components will require years, not months. The two academic studies we submitted to the consultation indicate about five years is required to be able to provide consumers with the quantities of alternatives required. Any less than that and shooting will be forced to stop through shortages of ammunition. Indeed, the situation could be worse in that, without products to sell, our UK manufacturing sector could collapse.
There is a sad irony in the current proposed restriction timeline. Nowhere else in the world are a group of companies investing so much in developing effective, lead-free shotgun ammunition with the entirely voluntary additional benefit of bio-degradable wads. The game shooting community in the UK have long demanded ammunition that does not litter the countryside with polypropylene wads. The technical challenge of providing cup wads that protect barrels from steel shot and then bio-degrade in the field is no easy battle, but our manufacturers are well on the way to success. Let us hope that the HSE and EA recognise the achievements being made and allow our cartridge loaders in the UK time to be able to meet the needs of all. On behalf of the manufacturers, importers, retailers and shooters themselves, the GTA will continue to push for reasonable and proportionate transition times.
This last weekend has seen the delivery of another great Stalking Show in Staffordshire. From humble beginnings, this show has rapidly grown to attract stalkers and the trade alike. Our congratulations and thanks to David Freer and the team. Central to the show’s success appears to be the delivery of educational and inspirational content and not just a retail opportunity. Jose Souto and Rachel Green will always pull in the crowds; experts like Frederic Hannah and the deer trackers will extend knowledge and introduce new skills; Charlie Jacoby will reassure and stiffen the sinews and the national treasure that is the Ole Hedge Creeper will reveal another set of magical sounds to lure in the wildlife.
Keep up the great work.
As the weather warms, there are plenty more shows on the horizon. The national events are key to keep drawing in newcomers to our sports but so too are the regional and local events where shooting is less well represented. If you can find opportunities to support shooting at these shows, please engage. Retail is of course an opportunity but so is helping out our organisations and clubs that might be encouraged to recruit youngsters or represent the value shooting has to offer.
I don’t need to remind you that shooting is under attack. Discussion of Plymouth and other high-profile tragic events has now reached the political phase. We have seen the police and coroner’s reports and we are now in conversations at a national level on what might be reasonable and proportionate in our shared interests of maintaining public safety. I know where attention is needed and it’s across the licensing system – not a knee-jerk change in legislation. All too quickly there were police call for changes in controls on shotguns. We all know there were plenty of opportunities to restrict Jake Davison from his murderous campaign through existing controls.
I would expect a Government consultation on these matters later in the year; I hope to know more shortly. We must be ready to ensure attention is paid to the areas of greatest concern. And at the same time, we must be ready to celebrate shooting and all it represents. Shooting provides us with our jobs, businesses, and pastimes. It provides us with a meaningful connection with the countryside. We don’t need to convert everyone to shooting but we do need to tell our story and spread knowledge and understanding of what we do and live for.