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PSNI FEB pauses firearm magazine application scheme

17 February 2021

PSNI FEB pauses firearm magazine application scheme

Yesterday evening, SACS, Country Sports Ireland, Countryside Alliance Ireland and BASC NI had a constructive meeting with PSNI FEB, Justice Department, Patsy McGlone MLA, Mervyn Storey (NI Policing Board), Jim McAllister (QC), head of FEB Jonathan Howarth and Superintendent Sam Donaldson.

This was an urgent single issue meeting organised by FEB and covering the ongoing Northern Ireland firearm magazines registration and application matter, affecting many of our collective members in Northern Ireland.

Essentially, the NI Firearms Order 2004 lists magazines as a component part of a firearm. Although for many years this was not regarded as a significant licensing issue, in December last year FEB took the decision, unfortunately without consultation or competent legal advice, that to be fully compliant with NI and EU law they would need to take a more robust position on the acquisition of magazines.

As a rather large red herring, there seemed to be confusion as to the purpose and wording of the EU Firearms Directive as adopted in 2019. This was clarified by ourselves, Tommy at BASC NI and Ronan at Country Sports Ireland. If we had been consulted at the outset we would have helped PSNI avoid making this mistake and disenfranchising so many of their customers and our members. PSNI have stated that this will not happen again. We hear that clearly; mistakes happen and we all go forward from here.

Magazines as component parts

To be clear, the EU Firearms Directive is as it sounds. It is an implementing directive, which requires member states to adopt elements of the directive into their own domestic laws, assuming equivalent legislative wording is not already in place.

As so many of you know well from endless consultations and special purpose meetings, SACS and other principal shooting UK representative bodies were heavily involved in lobbying over a large number of idiotic firearms restrictive ideas being promoted by the EU. Eventually, the vast majority of those anti-shooting efforts were, with a huge collective push, kicked into touch. The attempted restrictions included efforts to regulate magazines, including serial numbers and suggested bans on high capacity magazines.

In any case, the final list of EU directive firearm component parts did not include magazines.

In yesterday's meeting we very quickly got to the crux of the matter. In summary:

  1. The EU Firearms Directive is not domestic NI law and not relevant to this magazines issue, other than clarity that even the EU agrees that magazines are not especially dangerous and not worthy of regard as component parts. It is simply an implementing directive; the BREXIT agreement in respect of NI doesn't include EU Firearms Directive implementation.
  2. Given the EU Firearms Directive position, perhaps it is time for Northern Ireland to lose the line in its Firearms Order including magazines as component parts. This was discussed by the shooting representatives present and hopefully common sense will prevail in due course and bring NI in to line with the GB mainland position. We undertand the legacy NI issue, but time has moved on.
  3. SACS and its partner bodies put forward solutions to the current issue. These would involve no applications, variations, extra fees and far less work for PSNI. PSNI have taken these suggestions away and will come back to us shortly with a proposal, which we can then take to our members for approval.
  4. Importantly, whilst we all work on a solution, PSNI have agreed to pause the current magazines registration and application scheme. It no longer operates; you do not need to make any applications for magazines.

Joint working

To ably represent our members' interests, SACS used to have a strong working relationship with PSNI FEB. Sadly, at a senior level in the last few years this relationship became strained through absolutely no fault of SACS. We know that other bodies had the same issues. Thankfully, at a licensing manager operational level that working relationship was maintained and we are thankful to those hardworking FEB staff for their mature approach to joint work and shooter representation.

At its heart, firearms licensing is about keeping people safe - including shooters themselves. It is not an easy or eviable job and, with sight of what happens behind the scenes and the actual detail of some of the cases as opposed to some of the nonsense spouted on social media, SACS welcomes a new era in senior level FEB engagement once again. Whilst we may not always agree - this unfortunate magazines matter being a case in point, though we believe there is now agreement on a potential solution - we must keep senior lines of communication open, as well as a sense of humour and perspective.

Thus, we welcome Jonathan as new head of FEB and wish him and his team every success, especially at a time when resources are scarce and there are wider challenges for all of us. Jonathan knows well that the certificated shooting community is statistically safe, sensible and responsible. So, let's all please continue to work together quietly and constructively. Together we can help to keep people safe, shooting on a positive journey and licensing operations proportionate to actual and evidenced risk.

Meantime, NI members, we will comeback to you with the a suggested magazines solution in due course.

Onwards and upwards. A busy year continues on many fronts.