Monthly Archives: February 2015

NRA: UKPSA members might be committing criminal offences

While the International Practical Shooting Confederation ponder its bid for the rights to host IPSC Level 2 and 3 matches in Britain, the UK National Rifle Association has now resorted to telling UKPSA members they might be in breach of firearm certificate conditions.

Andrew Mercer, the NRA chief executive, seems to have suggested (in an official NRA Facebook post) that the UKPSA doesn’t offer sufficient insurance for its members, implying that UKPSA members relying on its insurance arrangements are – effectively – in breach of the conditions on their firearm and shotgun certificates. At least, that’s my personal reading of the words “I would urge all UKPSA members who think they are covered by public liability policies arranged through their membership of the UKPSA to contact them as a matter of urgency”.

Readers without a firearm or shotgun certificate of their own may not know that the majority of FACs and SGCs have a legal condition which states that the holder may only shoot where he has “adequate financial arrangements to meet any injury or damage claims” in place – generally meaning insurance. Not meeting that condition could be a criminal offence under section 1(2) of the Firearms Act 1968.

The UKPSA website’s insurance page was last updated in 2010. The membership page of the site does not mention insurance at all. Absence of public information, however, does not mean the UKPSA doesn’t have adequate insurance for its members.

These are strong words with serious intent from the NRA. Will the UKPSA fire back?

Mercer’s Facebook post is copied below in full.

UKPSA Members – Insurance Notice

It has come to our attention that some members of the UKPSA may be under the impression that they are covered by the NRA’s insurance policies. Our records indicate this is not the case; we have attempted to seek clarification on a number of occasions from the UKPSA Chairman but to date no satisfactory response has been forthcoming.

Insurance is a routine condition for most FAC’s; I would urge all UKPSA members who think they are covered by public liability etc. policies arranged through their membership of the UKPSA to contact them as a matter of urgency to confirm what cover has been / is in place.

For the avoidance of doubt this notice refers solely to UKPSA members who are not full members of the NRA.

Contact details for the UKPSA can be found at www.ukpsa.co.uk

Andrew Mercer
Group Chief Executive and Secretary General

If you know more about what’s going on in the background here, head to the about page of UKSN and drop us a line.

Update: A previous version of this blog post said the NRA had lost its IPSC bid. That is not the case and we’re happy to make that clear.

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New MoD range regs will include ‘handloading undertaking’

The latest update to the Ministry of Defence’s military range safety manual will include “undertakings” for civilian shooters using handloads, the NRA has said.

In a Facebook post announcing the forthcoming updates to JSP403 Vol I, the handbook of defence land ranges safety, the NRA said that numerous changes had been made that would benefit civilian rifle clubs, including:

  • A clause that removes the lower age limit for using MoD ranges, “unless there is a specific reason to impose limits in respect of a particular range”
  • Changes to the Club Agreement which make it clear that a change of chairman does not invalidate documents such as Certificates of Competence
  • A simplified High Muzzle Energy zeroing procedure, including a reduction in the qualifying group to 3 shots and removal of a separate zeroing procedure when all shooting will be at distances of 200 metres or less
  • Qualification of RCOs by discipline or groups of discipline, which the NRA says “will not invalidate existing qualifications”
  • “Acceptance of the principle that handloaded ammunition may be used, with a short statement of the undertaking to be given for its use. The undertaking is, we believe, not an onerous requirement and should not inhibit any current safe practice.”

Editor’s comment

The handloading “undertaking” may be the most important part of these changes. Previously JSP403 said nothing about using handloads, although the MoD as a whole frowns upon them – L81A2 Cadet Target Rifles, for example, are issued to cadet units along with strict instructions that handloads are not to be fired from them.

It is not clear at present what the “undertaking” will be, though the language suggests that it might just be a piece of paper with a waiver or disclaimer to sign. However, the suggestion that it “should not inhibit any current safe practice” suggests it might also set hard-and-fast rules for handloaders to follow.

As ever, this is an unpaid blog and the editor isn’t minded to start ringing up the NRA and the MoD for official comment. We will, however, be looking at the new edition of JSP403 Vol I when it is published.

Target shooting is not healthy, decrees Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has ruled that target shooting is not a health-enhancing sport after rejecting a county rifle association’s bid for charitable status.

Cambridgeshire Target Shooting Association (CTSA), which serves the county’s smallbore rifle clubs, had its application rejected after the commission decided not to grant it charitable status.

In a brief document summarising why it rejected the CTSA’s bid, the Charity Commission (CC) claimed:

… that CTSA is not established for exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit and cannot be entered on the register of charities.

Its decision hinged around how the common law definition of “healthy recreation”, necessary to establish a sporting charity’s bona fides, could be applied to smallbore target shooting. While the CTSA provides leagues for its members to take part in and has a dedicated section for disabled shooters, which is recognised by the Disabled Shooting Project, this wasn’t good enough for the CC.

Regular readers will be aware that smallbore target shooting takes place with .22 target rifles, typically fired from the prone position, at distances between 25yds and 200yds. Unlike other shooting disciplines such as civilian service rifle, there is no movement involved in smallbore target rifle practices.

Discussing the application, the CC said that charitable status can only be granted to clubs where “the sport in question can be shown to promote physical health and fitness”. While CTSA provided evidence that top-level shooters need to be physically fit to shoot at their best, the CC said this did not show a strong enough link between physical fitness and shooting.

The commission also considered whether the peaceful sport of target shooting contributed to gun violence:

There is a potential concern that recognition of gun clubs as charities may have a potential detriment or harm arising from unlawful civil shootings and increase potential access to firearms.

Happily it immediately discounted this, recognising that such issues are well outside its competence to decide and are properly left to the Home Office.

Its full reasoning in the CTSA case can be read here.

The Charity Commission has previous form for messing target shooting clubs around. In the early 1990s it removed a number of rifle and pistol clubs from its list of charitable organisations, having unilaterally decided that it no longer needed to obey case law set by the courts firmly establishing that such clubs were eligible for charitable status – Re Stephens (1892) 8 TLR 792.

Bizarrely, as author Robert Meakin recounts in his book The Law of Charitable Status: Maintenance and Removal, the commission also took it upon itself to decree that “modern warfare no longer depended on the expert shooting skills of soldiers”.

There is no indication that the British Army will abandon marksmanship or skill-at-arms training. Neither is there any indication that the Charity Commission has been seconded to advise the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Comment: Labour are ignoring the police on gun licence costs

This morning’s Sunday Mirror carries an attack article headlined “Theresa May comes under fire for handing out cut-price gun licences while axing cops”. Interested readers can find it here, but UKSN implores you not to reward Labour’s little helpers by clicking the link.

In the article Jack Dromey, Labour’s shadow policing minister, says “each licence costs police £200 a year in admin but owners only pay around £50.” Sunday Mirror reporter Vincent Moss further informs us: “Mr Dromey said owners meeting the full cost would save £20million towards £250m needed to protect front-line officers.”

There’s one big problem for Labour here: police forces nationwide have already accepted and agreed that “gun licences” cost just £88 to issue. Labour are ignoring the official, agreed police position in favour of political soundbites based on a lie.

In November last year the Home Office issued a public consultation on raising firearm and shotgun certificate fees from their current levels. The consultation was the result of hard work behind the scenes by ACPO, acting for British police forces, the Home Office and membership-led shooting bodies. Here’s the level of fees that all parties agreed represents the full cost of issuing these licences:

New firearms fees levels. Source: The Home Office (with thanks to the Shooting Times)

New firearms fees levels. Source: The Home Office (with thanks to the Shooting Times). Click to enlarge

Labour aren’t interested in facts or the agreed rise in fees to full cost recovery levels. They will quadruple firearm certificate fees because they hate the shooting sports and want to price us out of our peaceful, law-abiding hobby.

Please share this post with your friends so the message gets out. Labour cannot be trusted with control of the licensing system.

Convicted of drink-driving a golf buggy – beware, TR shooters

Alarm and despair reaches UKSN’s ears from Imperial Meeting competitors after a recent court case where a golf buggy driver was persuaded to plead guilty to driving under the influence – despite not being on a public road.

The Daily Telegraph reports that 27-year-old events manager Paul Crawford was persuaded to plead guilty to a charge of driving whilst unfit under section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872. He was breathalysed while driving a golf buggy across a private field towards his campsite, while he attended the Silverstone Grand Prix.

His solicitor, Nick “Mr Loophole” Freeman, was caught out by the Crown Prosecution Service moving the goalposts and threatening to charge Crawford with an offence under the Victorian “cow law”, which was aimed at stopping drunks from herding livestock around. This prompted Crawford to change his plea. The archaic offence only provides for fines, so Crawford will keep his licence.

Competitive TR shooters will, of course, be aware of the high jinks that take place late at night on Bisley Camp towards the end of the Imperial Meeting. There is no suggestion that anyone at the Imperial Meeting would actually get behind the wheel of a golf buggy while incapable through drink – but some folk might want to think carefully!

IPCC investigating “cover-up” allegs after police shot 7-yr-old girl

Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigators are considering whether Nottinghamshire Police tried to cover up a negligent discharge that resulted in a 7-year-old girl being hit by a negligently fired bullet while touring the force’s HQ.

The incident happened in November last year when a round was fired during a school visit to the Sherwood Lodge premises, north of Arnold. The Nottinghamshire Post reported at the time: “It is thought a cartridge [sic] ricocheted off the ground and hit the girl in the face, causing a minor injury to her lip.”

According to the Post, the girl was part of a school tour visiting the force’s dog and traffic sections. They came across an armed response detail, who were evidently not part of the pre-arranged tour, and the children were shown their equipment. At this point a police constable made a negligent discharge (ND) of his weapon.

While the Notts force does not carry “machine guns”, as the Post incorrectly states, its armed response teams are equipped with Heckler & Koch G36 rifles capable of semi-automatic fire.

The Post then reported that Nottinghamshire Police kept quiet about the incident following an argument between Chief Constable Chris Eyre and the county’s elected Police and Crime Commissioner, Paddy Tipping, over when the incident should be made public. Worryingly, the force appears to have tried to hide the incident from the county’s Police and Crime Panel, which is responsible for scrutinising the force and holding its actions to public account.

The force’s chief constable, Chris Eyre, later confessed that he had “made a mistake” by not going public immediately – while attempting to defend his decision not to acknowledge the ND for a week by saying:  “It was my decision when made public, but the reason is we had young families. They have lives as well.”

Notts Police insisted they are in “regular contact” with the girl who was struck by their bullet.

Today the IPCC announced the details of its investigation into the shooting, which will include determining “whether an attempt was made to cover-up the incident”. In addition, it will examine “whether the use of live firearms at a public demonstration was authorised, and if so by whom” and “whether firearms officers placed members of the public and other officers at risk in their handing of the firearms that they had responsibility for”, amongst other things.

Three Notts Police employees – two firearms-trained constables and a sergeant dog handler – have been served gross misconduct notices by the IPCC. These merely inform them that they are under investigation.

Editor’s comment

Handling a loaded weapon – and, yes, in police hands these firearms are definitely weapons intended to be used to kill and injure human beings – in such a way as to fire a shot and injure a seven year old child creates an unacceptable risk. If the IPCC finds otherwise then clearly the IPCC is unfit for purpose.

On the facts reported by the Nottingham Post and summarised above, there is little room for doubt that a constable fired his weapon and that by doing so he injured an innocent child. The question then becomes, what on earth was the constable doing carrying a weapon in a made ready state while bimbling around the force HQ? Or, if he made the weapon ready while showing it off to a group of schoolkids, why did he decide to do so? Finally, what possessed him to put his finger near the trigger of a made ready weapon and then to pull it?

One hopes the constable is relieved of firearms duties immediately and remains so until the IPCC delivers its verdict, at least. There should be no place for such rank amateurism amongst lawful users of firearms.

One can also speculate that had a normal member of the public shot and injured a child, they would be facing criminal prosecution and extrajudicial punishments such as confiscation and destruction of their firearms. Policemen rarely uphold the law amongst themselves and it is, sadly, unlikely that the constable will ever answer to a proper court.