COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE COMMENT
The good folk at the Countryside Alliance are committed to ensuring the continued enjoyment of our sport for future generations – and if that means paperwork, and lots of it, then so be it
At the Countryside Alliance HQ it can feel at times like we are swimming against a tide of forms, paperwork and consultations. Take, for example, the Home Office’s two ongoing consultations on “offensive” weapons and the definition of antique weapons, as well as a review on air weapon regulations. While these reviews will only affect a small minority of the shooting community, it is of absolute importance that the Countryside Alliance treats each and every one with the utmost respect.
While these consultations are launched with admirable intentions, with the principle aim of enhancing public safety, they run the risk of unfairly compromising people in the shooting community while failing to actually benefit anybody.
Banning .50 calibre rifles through the offensive weapons consultation because they are high-powered and have the “potential range and penetration” to be a significant risk if they were to fall into the wrong hands is a dangerous precedent to set.
The Countryside Alliance has two major questions with this attitude to ban instead of further regulating the calibres involved:
Firstly, will public safety be improved by the banning of these firearms? To our knowledge there has not been one crime recorded using a .50 calibre firearm or the other targeted firearm in the consultation, the VZ 58 manually actuated release system (MARS) rifle.
Secondly, what is the Home Office’s calculation that draws the line with these rifles but allows the continued use of other calibres? Subsequently, how long will it be till the Home Office decides that other calibres are also too dangerous – this is something the UK National Rifle Association describes as “slippage”. Having worked tirelessly throughout the process of the European Firearms Directive – which was launched on the back of the horrific events in Paris in 2015 – the CA has vast experience of the importance of workable legislation. As this particular consultation winds through the Home Office ranks we will be attending meetings, keeping our members updated and holding the government to account at every stage.
The impending review of air weapons in England and Wales has coincided with a survey for the Scottish shooting community which is asking their personal views on the licensing procedures, with particular interest on the licensing of air weapons. Since the Scottish government introduced air weapon licensing, Police Scotland have remained positive. However, the Countryside Alliance is not 100% certain everything is as smooth as it is being made out to be, so the survey results will be of extreme interest to both the future of licensing in Scotland and the process of air weapon regulation in England and Wales.
The Countryside Alliance will keep a close eye on the review of air weapons in England and Wales and will continue to scrutinise bad practice and failing services across all licensing departments in the UK.
This trend in consultations and reviews unfortunately does not stop here. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are currently in the process of no less than five consultations which are relevant to the shooting community and rural livelihoods. A full response is required for each and every consultation, for we understand that the NRW’s inbox is being filled with inaccurate facts and figures from those that want to see shooting restricted. The most demanding is the one looking at the future use of firearms on NRW-owned land.
In Scotland, a new group has been formed to focus on the sustainability of driven grouse moors. We welcome the involvement of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and their scientific expertise in this group, and look forward to providing evidence of the conservation, economic and social benefits of grouse shooting.
Now more than ever the Countryside Alliance Campaign for Shooting is working towards securing the future of shooting for the next generation and generations to come, so that they can enjoy the countryside and our rich shooting traditions as we currently do.
Ongoing consultations include those on issues surrounding antique firearms and .50 cal rifles
The work done by the CA will help to ensure that the next generation can enjoy shooting and the countryside as we are able to now