How to Kill UK Airsoft – A Guide
So what would you say about a leading UK airsoft retailer and leading light in the formation of UKARA daring to suggest that airsoft weapons in the UK come under the SAME rules and restrictions as REAL DEAL firearms?
This is just one of the proposals put forward in correspondence Airsoft Odyssey has kindly been passed by our intelligence sources. What is being outlined to the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) , Home Office and anyone else that will listen is that ONLY RFD’s (Registered Firearms Dealers) be able to sell RIF’s.
The full suggestions sent to the Home Office include:
- All RIFs should be sold through Air weapon RFDs, (at least 50% of UKARA retailers are already RFDs)
- RIFs to be sold to 18 and over only
- Only Air weapon RFDs should be allowed to import RIFs
- No restrictions on posting RIFs
- 2nd hand sales only through Air weapon RFD monitored resources.
This of course will potentially put an end to UKARA – a coffin that is being nailed shut by some of its own members, Zero-One selling via their Festival Wristbands! And NOW FireSupports own Frank making these proposals by rattling the tigers cage that doesn’t need to be disturbed.
UKARA have been quick to distance themselves from the representations made by Firesupports Frank Bothamley by writing to its membership and outlining its stance. Frank appears to have gone to ACPO and HO and may have given the impression that he was representing UK airsoft (via UKARA?) and asking to be involved in any VCRA update process. He is now hoping for the consultation process to begin, especially now that ACPO have essentially ruled VCRA unenforceable and have tried to palm it off to local trading standards organisations. The Home Office are of course now looking into what can now be done to make the law enforceable and simpler.
Plenty of UKARA members are now asking for FULL consultation and an emergency meeting to discuss what is happening as this is likely to put many of them effectively out of business if it where acted upon. Some are even expressing votes of no confidence in the current committee and asking for radical reform of the organisation.
So if Frank’s proposals (backed by SOME UKARA members) where to be adopted what would the effects for UK airsofters be?
Imagine the New world Order for UK Airsoft:
- NO internet sales – no small internet only retailers
- NO private importing RIFs/airsoft
- Travelling distances across country to buy airsoft weapons IN PERSON
- NO secondhand sales – all those forums and retailers out of business – less choice for players
- Price control and huge price rises by a ‘CARTEL’ controlling UK airsofting
Please for now keep this confidential within the Airsoft retailers.
For the last 12 months I have been speaking to FELWEG the Firearms section of ACPO (The Association of Chief Police Officers), as high as you can get in Police Firearms area.
This is because I have been frustrated by not being able to help out UKARA members who report breaches of the VCR Act or report people exploiting loop holes. I get evidence and then noone in power seems to want to do anything.
Also RFDs cause problems by selling RIFs to anyone over 18 based on a perceived power level rather than the evidence from the Forensic Science Service report.
ACPO has been trying to find someone in Trading standards to enforce the VCR Bill because they do not think it is a Police remit.
As I have said to them both neither group want to take responsibility for enforcing the law as they always say please report to the other group.
In the last month ACPO have finally admitted in writing after trying to get Trading standards involved that they believe that the VCR Act as far as RIFs are concerned is not enforceable.
They emailed this information to the Home Office and copied to me.
The Home Office are now looking into what can now be done to make changes to make the law enforceable and simpler.
There hopefully will now be a consultation process (this may take a while, it took 2 years to sort out the VCR Act) involving interested parties as what can be done now.
I have asked to be involved in this process.
I spoke to the Home Office yesterday and they have asked for suggestions.
They are going to do something to change the situation, so better we are involved at the start in a positive way, than to just be faced with another botched solution.
My suggestion to you is that if changed we need to simplify the process whilst making it easier to sell guns.
My thoughts are:
As a good percentage of UKARA Airsoft shops are already RFD Air weapon retailers and if not then it is reasonably easy to become one.
(Firesupport is not an RFD Airweapon registered shop but all we would have to do would be apply and all that is required is a few simple changes)
The Home Office in the past have said that they would not support the sole use of any one checking system such as UKARA as this would create a cartel type environment which they could not condone.
My suggestion to get rid of any loop holes, interpretations and just ignorance of law and make it easier to enforce, as follows :-
Should accepted (big should) it would mean the end of UKARA, the end of need for checking players, no more annual fees and be able to sell to anyone over 18. Or they make take on board some or none of what we suggest.
All RIFs should be sold through Air weapon RFDs, (at least 50% of UKARA retailers are already RFDs)
RIFs to be sold to 18 and over only
Only Air weapon RFDs should be allowed to import RIFs
No restrictions on posting RIFs.
2nd hand sales only through Air weapon RFD monitored resources.
Please can you reply back by end of November 2013 with your agreement to my suggestion or alterations or alternate suggestions so that I can collate and resend out to members for comment.
Should I get no reply from you then I can only assume you don’t care which system is taken forward or we end up with.
An email about possible recommendations in regards to changes in the way the VCR Act and Airsoft trade should be regulated by the Government via contact with the Home Office may have been sent to you.
UKARA as an Association has made no representation to the Home Office about any of these matters, these discussions have taken place by Frank Bothamley on his own behalf representing himself, or possibly Fire Support.
These recommendations proposed by Frank in reality would be changing the whole structure of the Airsoft retail industry and the way it works, with a significant knock on effect on how players and game sites work.
We consider any UKARA recommendation or plans could only be made with full consultation and backing of the majority of the current retailer members, if the committee agreed to merits of such proposals.
It is this kind of contact that may have caused ACPO and Trading Standards to become so interested in the matter in the first place.
At the moment the UKARA system working within the VCR Act regulations gives the appearance to the majority of being adequate, however imperfectly, we get very few letters of complaint, most are of praise of how well we run things. There may be problems and rogue traders but most of the time business carries on normally.
We ( the majority of the committee ) would rather see what the Home Office is going to propose ( if anything ) rather than offering suggestions which may be much more radical that they would ever come up with themselves, it is hardly a priority for them.
Last night a huge fuss kicked off after a “leaked” report was published which was improperly digested by the author and spun in a manner by which to raise a huge amount of alarm, an act in itself potentially damaging. The author has a history of anti-UKARA behavior and has thrived on the sensationalism of the flawed “report”. To get the true facts of the matter and to present the contents of this now infamous email correctly, we’ve gone directly to the author of it, Frank B., chairman of UKARA and joint owner of industry leading UK retailer, Fire Support.
As chairperson of UKARA, Frank is obliged to, by the members of the scheme, to report breaches of the VCRA be it through his own discovery or reports from other UKARA members. As many within the industry will know, it’s not uncommon to see a new player turned down when it comes to purchasing a RIF only to see that same player clutching one not more than a week after their failed attempt. Upon investigation you will commonly find that a retailer or individual has breached the rules in place and violated the VCRA.
Additionally second hand sales on forums, Facebook and other outlets are rife. There are people out there that I personally know waging a war on these individuals (you know who you are Mr Armstrong, Mr BAMF and Mr Clark, to name but three) to prevent RIFs from falling into the wrong hands, but more often than not, upon discovery, very little power can be exercised.
Frank along with many UKARA members are painfully aware of this and as a matter of “self policing” and duty, has taken the issue to the ACPO in the last 12 months simply asking, “What powers do we have to prevent those breaching the VCRA?”
The issue arises because ACPO do not feel that the issue is within the Police remit and have been attempting to find authority within Trading Standards. Equally, Trading Standards believe it to be a Police issue and thus far, neither party has taken any action against the reported breaches of the VCRA.
Frank’s communication reads,
“In the last month ACPO have finally admitted in writing after trying to get Trading standards involved that they believe that the VCR Act as far as RIFs are concerned is not enforceable. They emailed this information to the Home Office and copied to me.”
As conscientious airsofters, this should be read as “finally, the Police have acknowledged the current VCRA is broken”. Many have long come to this conclusion that due to grey areas and indistinctness, the VCRA is wide open to abuse, and yes, it is frequently exploited by those retailers that wish to cash in on a quick buck and those that have stood resolute and stuck by the rules have been at a disadvantage.
Now the Home Office are interested into what can be done to simplify the current laws and make things more enforceable. In short there is the potential to properly classify and define an “Airsoft Gun” and do away with the current “grey areas” that have caused tension and unrest. This is something many airsofters and retailers have cried out for, for some time. The HO have not said they would change anything and this may go nowhere, they just asked for a suggestion as to what UKARA would like.
The good news is that there is now hopefully a consultation period. For reference the original VCRA took two years to get sorted, and the Home Office have asked for suggestions, they want to change the situation and it is advantageous for airsoft that we are involved in it form this point onwards. The HO never do anything in a hurry or without consultation with all interested parties and public meetings etc.
In Frank’s email, he goes on to outline his starting THOUGHTS. These are not suggestions he has made to the Home Office and they are not fixed in stone. They are simply a starting point which is open to suggestions from the rest of UKARA’s members.
As unbelievable as it might sound to those that cannot part with the idea that UKARA is Satan incarnate, but Frank’s proposals actually spell and end to the Association and instead bring RIF sales inline with that of Air Weapons. A situation where rules are black and white and there are no annual fees or player checks required.
Frank details that a good percentage of UKARA members are already RFD Air Weapon Retailers and that applying for such status is by no means a labourious process. Fire Support, who have been demonised in the fall out from this would indeed have to go through this process themselves.
Franks STARTING suggestions, which are completely open to change include:
“All RIFs should be sold through Air weapon RFDs, (at least 50% of UKARA retailers are already RFDs)
RIFs to be sold to 18 and over only
Only Air weapon RFDs should be allowed to import RIFs
No restrictions on posting RIFs.
2nd hand sales only through Air weapon RFD monitored resources. (This does not mean BANNED, it means controlled)”
The email then goes on to ask for suggestions, alteration and comments following on from this. With a deadline of the end of November, 2013.
Now the biggest problem that the airsoft community has with this at this point seems to be the restriction of personal importation of RIFs, something which is a game of chance for the buyer. If you feel strongly enough about the suggestion that this activity could be prohibited, Ai suggest that you should contact your closest UKARA registered dealer and talk to them about including an amendment in their own suggestions.
Without the hype and hysteria caused by an individual looking to garner some hits on their website, the email that was “leaked” is nothing more than a call to arms, for the legitimate UK Airsoft Industry to band together and to finally make their voice heard and to act towards a change that will ensure the preservation of our hobby.
The true cost of standing by and doing nothing could be great. Although the current system is relatively easy for legitimate airsofters to attain RIFs, it’s also open to abuse and potentially, it would be simple for a RIF to fall into the wrong hands, which we all know could spell disaster very easily.
Does this spell disaster and the end of airsoft? Of course not. From our perspective this shows a proactive more from the authorities and the industry towards ensuring that there is proper regulation of RIFs in line with the VCRA. Are Frank’s suggestions necessarily the right ones? Perhaps not and with the feedback of the entire association, it’s highly likely they will shift significantly. There is until the end of November 2013 to make suggestions or amendments before they will be collated and re-circulated.
As of today no majority view has been agreed within the UKARA organisation.