The Plymouth inquest has finished and we have seen the Independent Office for Police Conduct's initial report. We still await the coroner’s final submission. The IOPC report is scathing in its assessment of the licensing system in Devon and Cornwall Police which allowed guns to be returned to an individual who should have been considered high risk. The failings identified included a lack of training, behaviour equating to misconduct, a lack of proper systems to provide proper decision making and a failure to learn. It will have been clear to many of us where the problems lay.
It, therefore, comes as a surprise that, in response, the headlines include ‘calls for radical reform of gun laws’. What the inquest made clear was that if the proper processes were followed, Davison would not have had his guns returned and not have killed five people. Chief Constable Deborah Tedds, the National lead on firearms licensing is quoted as saying that legislation needs to be overhauled to make the licensing regime for shotguns as strict as for section one firearms. So, rather than admitting the failures of a licensing department against existing laws and guidance, she is proposing further restrictive laws.
It was the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988 that aligned firearm and shotgun certificate processes and placed a requirement for the police to be satisfied that the individual was not a threat to public safety or the peace and to have a good reason for possession.
The first principle of the Gun Trade Association’s Code of Practice is:
“The safety of the public shall be a priority for the Association and its members”
We work with the police to support the fight against criminality and risks to public safety. We will continue to work with the Home Office and law enforcement bodies to support public safety and be more effective in their role providing the legislative and statutory guidance frameworks. But we will not support knee-jerk, disingenuous, headline-grabbing calls for changes in legislation unless a clear benefit is justified.
We are meeting with the Home Office and police representatives later this month to better understand their ambitions. We need to work together to solve problems and tease out the real issues. Could firearms legislation benefit from an overhaul? – yes, probably. There are many areas where we could remove inefficient processes of licensing with no threat to public safety – e.g. moderators off controls, one-for-one exchanges without variations etc. etc. But tightening legislation is not the answer – actually, we just need a police system that is trained, fit for the role and effective in preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands. We will all work toward that objective!
On a rather more positive note, we can look back on the recent shows in UK and Germany as being a great success. The British Shooting Show presented a fine array of brand and retail stands to provide the public with a renewed interest in the year ahead. Everything was there, from Westley Richards fine guns to upholstered dog beds. Retailers reported satisfaction and so did the masses returning to their free car parks. Thank you to John, Annie and the team for your efforts.
Nuremberg was another trade concentration this week. There were two shows – Enforcetac, for the military and law enforcement community and IWA, for the outdoor and sporting trade community. While still not back to pre-COVID levels, IWA is recovering strongly. The trade view seemed rather optimistic. As well as catching up on a large array of new products (noting that some of the big players were still absent), the chance for re-establishing global connections and just seeing many familiar faces, made me feel the show was on the mend and looking good for coming years. The majority of you, who I met, felt the same.
Enforcetac is an interesting show. Not just about guns and ammunition but a huge array of technology, clothing and equipment for the specialist government community. With the war in Ukraine and wider concerns about Russia’s threat to global security, it may not be a surprise that the show had grown considerably. Footfall was up 75% as well. I expect this show to continue to grow. For those of you that have products or services that match the needs of military and law enforcement agencies, I would very much recommend you attend to exhibit. I would be pleased to answer any questions you have.
For both shows the post-BREXIT challenge has been about shipping products to and from the show – let alone the final export. We are looking at a bespoke transport plan for next year for any British exhibitors where we will organise a centralised delivery from a UK hub, direct to Nuremberg Messe. Of course, this depends on the level of take-up. If you have any interest in exhibiting at either show, please contact me and I can connect you with Marleen Meyer, the shows’ London-based agent to discuss opportunities.