Monthly Archives: April 2015

NRA swaps potholes for speed humps on Bisley range roads

The NRA’s long-awaited programme of camp refurbishments has finally reached the range roads, with the pothole-strewn surfaces behind Century Range and elsewhere on camp being resurfaced with tarmac earlier this week.

This is a welcome development for shooters who use Century and Short Siberia regularly. However, while the road has been resurfaced up to Hobson’s Way, the remainder of the road from the bend at the corner of target 108 has not been resurfaced.

As NRA chief exec Andrew Mercer told UKSN, this is because local environmentalists have convinced the local council that tarmacing the Short Siberia road would apparently threaten local worms.

Other camp roads that have been resurfaced include the approach to Melville and the road to Chelyesmore via caravan site 7.

On a related note, UKSN noted last weekend that the range floor works on Butt Zero have been completed; it now boasts gravel over its full length and width.

The full photo set of the roadworks can be seen on the NRA’s Facebook page.

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Firearms, “weapons” and challenging the abuse of language

One real problem facing British shooters is how the police insist on wrongly calling firearms and shotguns held by law-abiding members of the licensed firearms community* “weapons”. It is essential that we challenge the misuse of this word by police and government employees at every opportunity. The Oxford Dictionary defines a weapon as follows:

A thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage: nuclear weapons

While this definition arguably creates a grey area when it comes to military surplus firearms, ultimately the question that matters is one of intent; we – that is, the licensed firearms community – do not use our firearms for inflicting bodily harm on human beings. More to the point, we cannot (legally) obtain them for inflicting bodily harm – or, for that matter, for defence. Therefore by no definition can a legally held firearm be defined as a weapon, unless it is misused to harm another human being.

This simple matter of English usage did not trouble the police constables and civil servants who wrote the 1972 McKay Report, which called upon the government to effectively ban the private ownership of firearms. They had this to say about calling all legally-owned firearms and shotguns weapons:

First and foremost, it seems to us that a firearm must be a “weapon” within the ordinary definition (an instrument of any kind used in warfare or in combat to attack and overcome an enemy; “an instrument of offence”). If the only fair way of describing an instrument is as “an imitation weapon” then it necessarily seems to follow that the instrument is not a “weapon”. If it were a weapon, one would not describe it either as an imitation or as something which might be used as such. Words were used in Read v. Donovan (1974) 1 All E.R. 37; (1947), K.B. 236, which might appear to suggest that any signalling apparatus like a rocket signal device was necessarily a firearm. This seems clearly not to be so. If the statute had meant a lethal barrelled instrument or a lethal barrelled apparatus, it would have said so. In fact, the statute says “a lethal barrelled weapon”. (Read v. Donovan) proceeded upon the footing that the double barrelled Very pistol in the case was a weapon and in the judgement it is repeatedly described as such. That is understandable, in view of the evidence in that case that these pistols had commonly been fired at the enemy, with effect, in actual warfare.

This is self-evidently lacking in a number of areas – UKSN suspects whatever definition the police were using in 1972 was carefully selected from a very obscure dictionary and quoted only in part – but that is a matter for another blog post.

Now, the words at the top of our firearm and shotgun certificates are “firearm” and “shotgun”, not “weapon”. If Parliament wanted them identified as weapons, it would have said so in the many acts about firearms that it has passed. For all the many other criticisms that can justifiably be laid at Parliament’s door, an inability to follow the English language is not yet one of them.

Where does the police misuse of the term “weapon” originate from? Police firearms units train with weapons in order to kill and incapacitate, whilst firearms used by criminals are invariably employed as weapons. Therefore, this being the only experience or mention of firearms that the vast majority of police constables come across, the impression arises that all firearms must be weapons. So you and I get lumped in with hardened criminals and people whose job it is to legally apply extreme violence to those criminals using apparatus that is very similar to our own.

In a similar way, the armed forces refer to all their small arms as weapons, for the very good reason that they are definitely used as such. Regrettably, this approach crosses over into referring to rifles issued to the cadet forces (youth clubs aimed at U18s) as weapons, which programs this misuse of the English language into the youngest and most impressionable of minds.

The next time your FEO refers to your firearms or shotguns as weapons, politely correct him. Getting people to refer to our sporting equipment correctly is a small step towards breaking down fears and prejudices.

* “Licensed firearms community” is a term coined by Chief Constable Andy Marsh of Hampshire Constabulary, who is also the chair of the police’s Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group (FELWG). It is an excellent term and one we should use more often.

HMIC publishes terms of reference for firearms licensing review

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has confirmed that it is carrying out a review of firearms licensing.

The review’s public terms of reference, which have been published on the HMIC website, are:

This inspection will review the efficiency and effectiveness of the arrangements in place for managing firearms licensing.

We will examine how well:

  • the governance structures work for firearms licensing at a national, regional and local level;
  • the force understands and manages risk relating to firearms licensing on a 24/7 basis, including levels of awareness of firearms licensing-related risks among first responders and supervisors;
  • the force learns to improve its firearms licensing including implementation of recommendations from national reports into fatal shootings by, for example, Firearms And Explosives Licensing Working Group (FELWG), Home Affairs Select Committee, Her Majesty’s Coroners and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC);
  • Authorised Professional Practice and Home Office Guidance on Firearms Licensing Law (2014) is understood and applied by police officers and staff concerned with the firearms licensing process; and
  • the force engages with stakeholders e.g., medical professionals, licensees, special interest groups, educational establishments and the public.

HMIC will visit a representative sample of police forces in England and Wales.

An HMIC spokesman told UKSN that the review would be published in early summer. There is no formal connection between this review and the Law Commission’s review of firearms offences, which is focused on punishing the criminal misuse of firearms rather than the licensing system.

Comment

On the face of it HMIC’s effort looks like a fairly benign review as far as shooters are concerned; while ACPO is dead, its FELWG sub-committee, which effectively held a legislative position as far as firearms licensing is concerned thanks to its self-appointed function of deciding what laws to enforce and how to interpret them, doesn’t seem to be playing a big role here.

Neither do the public terms of reference mention anything about reviewing existing firearms controls. Of course, the public terms of reference and what happens behind closed doors may well be two separate things.

The only potential fly in the ointment is the mention of “stakeholders”, particularly “special interest groups” and “educational establishments”. There is virtually no anti-gun lobby in the UK of the sort that Americans would recognise, although there is a tiny group of four people calling itself the Gun Control Network* which pops up from time to time. The only educational establishment that comes to mind is Brighton University, whose anti-gun criminology professor Peter Squires used to call himself an “ACPO advisor” until UKSN asked ACPO exactly what his connection with them was. “None”, was the thrust of their full answer, which UKSN keeps on file and is happy to provide to any shooter who asks.

*The GCN’s four members are: Ex-Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews; his wife Jill, who got a taste for bossing people around as part of the Snowdrop Campaign in 1996; Peter Squires; and one Christine “Chrissy” Hall.

Despite, or perhaps because, of this pressure group’s minuscule membership, it is on the radar of a number of broadcast media organisations which have a duty to promote a “balanced” view. “Balanced” does not mean “accurate”; rather, the basic thinking goes that every argument has a counter-argument and as such both sides must be presented, regardless of their obvious merits or lack of.

McKay Report: Appendix 1, Composition of the Working Party

This is a list of the people who made up the working party which drew up the McKay Report.

The McKay Report was, according to page 3 of the report itself, commissioned by Home Secretary Reginald Maudling MP in December 1970 “to carry out a review of the present arrangements for the control of all kinds of firearms, in consultation with chief officers of police.”

Maudling commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for England and Wales to carry out the review. It will not fail to disturb British shooters reading this in 2015 to learn that HMIC are today carrying out another review of the firearms licensing system. Very little information has made it into the public domain about the current day review; we can only hope its authors are more sensible and less inclined to kneejerkery than their bile-filled forebears from the 1970s

Appendix 1, Working Party on the Control of Firearms: Composition of the Working Party

Sir John McKay CBE QPM HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales (Chairman)
Mr J Angus QPM Chief Constable of Leeds
Mr T W Chasser CVO Chief Constable of the Scottish North-Eastern Counties
Mr D H J Hilary Home Office
Commander H Hodgson Metropolitan Police
Commander E O Howells Police Research Services Branch, Home Office
Mr W Hutchison
and subsequently
Mr R D M Calder
Scottish Home and Health Department
Mr J D McCafferty Metropolitan Police Laboratory
Mr F Drayton Porter QPM Chief Constable of Mid-Anglia
Mr D R Birleson Home Office (Secretary)

Note

Commander Howells succeeded Commander Hodgson (now Deputy Assistant Commissioner) as the Metropolitan Police representative in July 1971, on his return to that force from his secondment to the Home Office.

McKay Report 1972: Conclusions and recommendations

This post records the 1972 McKay Report’s 76 recommendations on tightening firearms laws. It is hand typed from the only public copy of the Report known to be in existence.

Commentary

The report was started just two years after the 1968 Firearms Act consolidated existing firearms controls into one new law. Colin Greenwood recorded in his authoritative memorandum to Parliament on the history of British gun law that police officers were clandestinely carrying out background work on the report in 1969 even before its production was formally authorised in 1970.

The McKay Report, finalised in September 1972, is widely seen as having been written with a pre-conceived agenda of disarmament and the deliberate destruction of private firearms ownership in Great Britain in mind. It was commissioned by Home Secretary Reginald Maudling shortly after the Conservative Party regained control of the government in 1970 from Harold Wilson’s first Labour administration.

Given its timing and the political background, the McKay Report appears to have been written by disaffected senior police officers unhappy that they did not get their way when Wilson’s government legislated to pass new firearms controls in 1967; those controls became the Firearms Act 1968, which remains the main piece of firearms legislation in Britain today. Many of the recommendations below, drawn directly from the report, demanded tighter controls than Parliament saw fit to include.

Despite the range of sweeping changes, the report was generally kept quiet – though its conclusions will seem strikingly familiar to the modern reader, and it seems to have driven the police position on ever-greater firearms controls since its completion. It was never made publicly available until April 2015, following a Freedom of Information campaign by this blog’s author against the Home Office that lasted seven months. The Home Office acted improperly; they should have disclosed it within 30 working days of the original request in late 2014 as the law requires.

The list below is set out in exactly the same way as the report itself. The paragraph number in brackets refers to the main body of the report, each paragraph of which goes into greater detail about the reasoning for the recommendation.

UK Shooting News will be publishing separate commentary on the McKay Report and further extracts.

Continue reading

We have a copy of the 1972 McKay Report on Firearms Control

UK Shooting News has obtained a copy of the 1972 Report of the Working Party on the Control of Firearms under the Freedom of Information Act. This document has, to the best of our knowledge, never been made public before.

The estimable Colin Greenwood, former police constable and editor of the now-defunct Guns Review magazine, referred to it in his authoritative memorandum on the history of British firearms controls that he submitted to Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee:

38.  In December 1970, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir John McKay, was formally asked to review the current law on firearms. He set up a working group consisting of chief officers of police, Scottish Office and Home Office officials. Though there were some meetings of sub groups with representatives of shooting organisations, there was no real consultation and the entire proceedings were confidential.

39.  Although the study was formally authorised in December 1970, preparatory work must have been going on for at least a year prior to that because the Staff Officer to HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary visited Cambridge in the autumn of 1969 seeking information about research being conducted by a senior police officer and offering to share available information. He was briefed on the progress of the research and when it became clear that the study raised doubts about the effectiveness and efficiency of the system all contact was cut off and no liaison took place. The researcher concluded that the Working Party was not interested in information which did not conform to its pre-determined results.

40.  The McKay report was produced in September 1972, but has never been made public. It is known, however, that the first of 70 conclusions reached in a summary of the report was that a reduction in the number of firearms in private hands was a desirable end in itself. The report contained no evidence to justify this conclusion.

As it only arrived in this morning’s post the full text is going to take a while to read, digest and blog about. My eventual hope is to get the full document online; however, as the original report was a typewritten manuscript that was evidently photocopied for my FoI request, and there’s a 2″ thick pile of paper on my desk next to me, this may take some time. (anyone got a multi-page-feed document scanner in the London area?!)

Mr Greenwood’s memo leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that the McKay Report is the source document which set British firearms policy for the latter half of the 21st Century. The Report’s effects are still felt in legislation and practice today. Its release into the public domain will help immeasurably those fighting to preserve our sport.

To give a flavour of the Report, here is Conclusion No.1:

1. We are satisfied that the holding of firearms by private individuals does contribute to crime committed with firearms; and we concluded that a reduction in the number of firearms in private hands is therefore a desirable end in itself.

Save the No8s: Here’s the NZ letter to MPs

The New Zealand Historic Arms Association has released to UK Shooting News a copy of the letter that NZ shooters used to lobby their MPs into saving their historic .22 No.8 training rifles from destruction.

This is an important letter because – crucially – it worked. It means British shooters have a starting point with which to lobby our own MPs, once the dust has settled from the general election in May.

Full text of the letter follows:

Destruction of New Zealand Cadet Force Training Rifles

I am advised that the New Zealand Cadet Force has or is in the process
of returning their No 8 and No 9 Lee Enfield .22 calibre training rifle
to the Army for destruction.

The Lee Enfield was first introduced into military service in the 1890s
and is still used by some nations today.  In New Zealand there are a
large number of licensed firearm owners who shoot and collect these
rifles.  The No 8 and No 9 .22 calibre training rifles were first
introduced in the 1950s, to provide an economical firearm for training
service personnel and cadets to shoot accurately.  Many New Zealanders
will have learned to shoot with these rifles as school cadets or as army
recruits.

The Lee Enfield rifle has served New Zealand since 1900 and these No 8
and No 9 Training Rifles are an important part of our military and
national heritage.  In addition these rifles have a significant value to
collectors of Lee Enfield rifles.

Since they do not pose any threat to national security or public safety,
I urge you use your influence to prevent the destruction of these
historically valuable rifles and allow them to be released to the
civilian market.

UKSN is of the view that directly lobbying MPs, rather than the discredited tactic of petitions, is the best way for British shooters and shooting organisations to help preserve such an important part of our national shooting heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Perhaps a body such as the NSRA or the HBSA could get behind a formal campaign?