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How times have changed
Dear Sporting Rifle,
I have just returned from a week in Tenerife. Packing for the trip was simple: Sporting Rifle’s April 2019 issue, a John Macnab paperback, passport and not much more! It rained – a lot – which resulted in my reading Sporting Rifle cover to cover and in a depth which I have to confess I do not normally do.
I was genuinely absorbed and challenged by a number of the featured articles – in particular ‘Legal wrangles’, ‘Hot, hot hunt’ and ‘Why do we hunt?’
The legal article got me thinking how things have changed so much in respect to the Firearms Enquiry Officer’s role as I once knew it and how it is today. I served 30-plus years in rural Grampian and Northern Constabulary areas.
Dealing with certificate applications was bread and butter for most cops. It was not uncommon to be invited to partake in a ‘refreshment’ while carrying out the home visit of an applicant.
The polite acknowledgement and refusal of such Highland hospitality was a skill to be learned. Invariably the FEO would have known a lot more about the applicant(s) than the applicant actually appreciated.
This background knowledge was all part and parcel of being a country bobby. Such knowledge held greater credibility than much of today’s background checks, in my opinion.
Following the required visits, a minimal report was submitted, and the key wording in said report was that the applicant “appears” to be a fit and proper person to be the holder of the desired certificate. If an officer stated in his report that the applicant “did not appear” to be a fit and proper person, all hell let loose and said officer was summonsed to appear before a very high-ranked officer and dressed down for having the audacity to make such a judgement!
To return to the article, the author (David Barnes) made clear, helpful and relevant points for prospective FAC applicants in today’s climate. I would encourage readers to take what he says on board.
The approach taken by FEOs nowadays plays by a very different set of demands that have been dictated well beyond their control.
Indeed, we are in changed days and I found myself musing over the prospect of my forthcoming FEO visit where there may well be a bottle of Kings Ginger and two glasses sitting on the table between us.
Then again, the presence of such would present a potentially questionable situation. Will it happen? I guess the answer will be decided by the editor-in-chief…
A simpler approach?
Dear Sporting Rifle,
Over the years the British shooting public have been forced to accept draconian laws imposed upon them by successive governments and police chief constables, who have convinced the non-shooting public that it’s all in the interests of common good and public safety.
Those of us who jealously guard our cherished possessions ensure they are kept from prying hands and eyes, because as responsible individuals we know the dangers of allowing them to be handled by the unwary, careless or ignorant.
Yes, in the past we have seen the criminal-minded and mentally disturbed get their hands on firearms. Thankfully such seldom happens, though we do not forget past tragedies.
Regardless of what laws are imposed by a parliament – which itself cannot even abide by the will of the people – the criminal and those intent upon violence will always find a way to procure firearms and explosives.
The original Firearms Act prohibited those with a criminal propensity, who had been sentenced to terms of imprisonment or committed for treatment under the Mental Health Act, from possessing a firearm.
I believe the original Firearms Act held enough power: The police could inspect the records kept by a firearms dealer to ensure known criminals had not bought firearms; a person had to have good reason to possess a firearm, and had to be of good character.
Perhaps I am looking to over-simplify certificate application forms but if we include name, address, any mental health issues and any criminal history, then surely we have covered all the necessary basics.