Will calls to reform the Firearms Licensing Department in the Dyfed Powys Police, how are businesses in Wales responding? Ollie Harvey explores…
Dyfed Powys Police have been urged to reform their firearms licensing department with immediate effect, affecting shooters and traders across Wales.
Though official stats showed that while gun ownership is above national average in South Wales, firearms offences per 100,000 are far below the rest of the UK. Despite this, the countryside alliance is calling for change within Dyfed Powys Firearms Licensing Department after meeting with the areas Police and crime commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn.
This follows increasing numbers of member complaints and high levels of service dissatisfaction. The Alliance’s director for Wales, Rachel Evans, has dealt with increasing calls in the past 18 months and says little has happened to address the situation after initial meetings between the ca and firearms Department last October.
Rachel Evans said: “The lack of progress made within the department, has left the countryside alliance with no other option but to approach the PCC to register our concerns.
“One member has contacted the licensing department on a fortnightly basis for over 12 months only to be continuously told their file would be seen to next. this appears to be the running theme and it needs to be raised at the highest level.
“A few members have mentioned feeling intimidated by the process. they are nervous about questioning their application or renewal delay in fear of being put at the bottom of the pile. this attitude and approach to work is unacceptable and unprofessional.”
Amid this climate, what are traders in wales doing to keep shooter coming through the door? Haylett Grange Shooting Supplies has been offering a range of services, gunsmithing and leading brands since 2006. from their gunroom in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, they are now offering a clay shooting experience.
The site is specifically designed to teach beginners the art of clay shooting, as a proper lesson but without all the ‘red tape’ of shotgun ownership,in a fun and safe environment. The retailer is also providing experienced instructors to advise on the correct gun mount, aim point and stance.
Offering corporate, mobile and have-a-go clay shooting experiences, Haylett Grange put on a variety of targets to simulate real game shoots, and choice of gun to suit all shapes and sizes with no license or experience required.
For the more seasoned shooter, West Wales Shooting Supplies have over 30 years of experience, and provide extensive advice on their chosen specialist subject, optics. They also stock a range of powders, accessories and offer practical advice and demonstrations of various loading techniques at their premises in Whitland, Pembrokeshire.
Due to the extremely limited number of recharging facilities in both Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, the business have recently invested extensively in a ‘brand-new‘ professional commercial diving compressor. Therefore, they are now able to re-charge any PCP rifle or diving cylinders with compressed air, which is desiccated and filtered to industrial standards at pressures of either 300 bar (4,410psi) or 232 bar (3,410 psi).
When rifles are limited to operation at 190 bar (2,793psi) or below, west wales shooting supplies are also able to recharge to these lower pressures. Finding a niche such as this is a useful marketing tool for any business, but in an area with a widely dispersed population, it takes even more precedence.
To the north, the well-established, family run mid wales shooting centre is situated amid 300 acres of Powys countryside. Over the past 20 years, the clay shooting centre has played host to world, european, British, welsh and english championships and is host to the world-famous Krieghoff DTL event.
The site caters for everyone-from beginner to international, providing a vast range of shooting facilities, including 16 trap layouts of which six are undercover, four skeet layouts, compact sporting, ABT and 12 sporting stands.
New for this year, a pro store also provides an array of guns and accessories, backed by first- class service and advice to game and clay shooters as well as to those looking to take up the sport. encouraging newcomers appears to be the aim for most businesses – worrying news for licensing departments who will need to keep up with increasing admin demand.
Some business are going the other way – focusing, not diversifying. Neath Gun shop now deals exclusively in air rifles and air pistols; the business will soon rebrand as Neath Air Gun centre.
With businesses having to respond to obstacles facing shooters, the countryside alliance have put the following suggestions forward to help process the sale and licensing of firearms.
Firstly, an improved structure of communication, whereby certificate holders will be notified by letter at agreed stages of their query. Currently members are not receiving any information whatsoever on the current status of their application or renewal request, resulting in an increased number of calls in to the firearms department, which in turn drains resources.
Furthermore, the CA requested a detailed account of the number of outstanding queries ranging from three months to in excess of 18 months, and that a progress report monthly be forwarded to the PCC.
Following discussions, Rachel Evans said: “It was an extremely honest and open meeting with Dafydd Llywelyn PCC and i am confident that the commissioner will strive to improve the service to help the department get back on track.”
Dafydd Llywelyn added: “Dyfed Powys is a rural force and deals with a large number of firearms licence applications, but it is disappointing to hear of the concerns being raised. I am committed to ensuring improvements are made and additional resources have been agreed.”
Dafydd also confirmed that positive meetings with the firearms licensing Department had taken place. There is a need to balance the ease of application process with public safety, and in the coming months licence holders should start to see a positive service matching that of retailers from Powys to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.