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.