Far less frequently now, I get asked “What does the GTA do for me?” but I always welcome the challenge to ensure we keep your trade’s association on track.
This year we have been dealing with a growing number of challenges but, at the same time, I feel we are getting ever more traction with the decision-makers we need to reach.
I’m sorry to start with lead – but this is vital to all of us.
Through a desire to stay matched with Europe on chemical restrictions – and probably with a hint of political ambition – the Government made its proposals on moving away from lead in ammunition in outdoor use through the HSE restriction process. The HSE largely copied what had been produced in Europe by their chemicals agency - ECHA.
When we were asked to contribute evidence to the consultation last year, I provided detailed information on a wide range of topics. That seemed to fall on deaf ears and the proposals that were published back in May showed little sign they were listening. We have now had the second phase of consultation where we submitted further detailed evidence on what the industry could realistically achieve and where there were technical issues in their proposals. I do not have huge confidence in the process but I have recently picked up that they realise there is a need to talk to industry. I hope so. I will certainly be keeping the pressure on.
On delays in licensing. We have been reporting to the Home Office for some time that there are unacceptable delays in some areas. The message I got back six months ago was that it was a force-level issue – and not their problem. Following my Freedom of Information request to the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for firearms licensing in August (which she was unable to answer at the time), I have now discovered that both the NPCC lead and the Home Office are taking an interest and have compiled the data. In a parliamentary committee recently, the Policing Minister actually reported there were 7 forces over which he had concerns. Finally, through GTA pressure, there is somebody taking an interest at the national level and helping to rectify the situation. There is now sharing of best practices, a reallocation of resources and an urgency to get licensing back on track.
Where I have seen particular issues, I have sought to engage at the local level. In Devon and Cornwall, through direct engagement, we have made the staff aware of the challenges to small businesses through delays and their inappropriate use of temporary Section 7 permits. I think this message hit home and I’m delighted that they agreed to work with the trade, reduce the use of permits and process a block of long-awaited variations. And the meetings continue.
Other things I am working on at the strategic level include the review of firearms licence fees, removal of moderators from licensing control, the trade’s interest in the future of the police licensing computer management system, criminal use of firearms, import and export licensing, airgun safety, licensing officer training and approved professional practice, medical checks, paper applications – to name a few. All of these help maintain your ability to operate and do business.
Beyond that, we seek to be proactive in support of trade needs. We continue to deliver very well-received RFD training courses, with Paul Green, our new technical advisor at the helm. In 2023 we will also be offering Airgun-only one-day RFD training courses. Paul and I are also in the process of writing a new ‘RFD Handbook’– a quick reference guide for all your desks.
As a trade, we are desperately in need of more trained gun fitters, gunsmiths and gun-making craftsmen. We will be returning to our ‘careers in the gun trade’ recruiting efforts in 2023. I am in discussions with training providers to link us to existing manufacturing and machining apprenticeship programmes to build our capacity. If you would like to take on an apprentice in your workshops, please let us know. Once we have a working link with a course provider, I hope we can spread the model nationwide.
We will also be running the Trade Conference again next year. Following on from this year’s popular event, we will pick topical issues and provide a forum to exchange information and viewpoints that can benefit all of us.
That list of current activities may not address all your issues. We are here to assist with whatever interesting challenges you might be facing. Between me, Lin and Paul, I think we have the skill set and determination to deal with most things. We will be at shows, game fairs and other shooting events and we are always available by phone or email; please keep the communication coming.
We cannot operate without you as members. Thank you for your support and for empowering us to maintain the Trade’s operating environment and business opportunities.