Are gun dealers failing to comply with firearms laws, explosives regulations and health-and-safety requirements? Danny Kay of SETAC tells GTN what pitfalls retailers commonly fall into – and how to avoid them
Everyone knows the gun trade is constricted by a web of red tape – but lately it’s got worse. Police scrutinise individuals’ licence applications more closely than ever, wanting to know everything about the applicant’s state of health and domestic life. On the flipside, RFDs receive less support from time and cash-strapped police licensing departments – meaning when it comes to compliance issues and how to avoid them, they’re left in the dark.
Danny Kay has made it his job to rectify that. His company SETAC specialises in unpacking the masses of legislation relating to the possession, storage, transportation and transfer of firearms, ammunition and explosive items – and works with businesses in the gun trade to make sure they have no issues. With more than 15 years’ experience working as a firearms enquiry officer, Danny’s advantage is that he knows how the police think – and what they’ll be looking for next time they perform an inspection. And he keeps his legal knowledge current thanks to another business interest in the explosives industry – ensuring he’s well-versed in health-and-safety laws too.
“It’s as much or as little as the RFD wants me to do,” Danny says of his service. “It might just be a one-off problem they have, which we can resolve straight away, or it might be an ongoing matter that needs a year or more of attention.
“I will go along and look at a business and its compliance issues – whether or not it’s compliant with the various Firearms Acts and the Explosives Regulations 2014 – and work with the RFD to ensure they are continually compliant. It’s like giving them a health check. So come the time of the renewal of the RFD or their next police inspection, they know they will be 100 per cent clean from a compliance perspective.
“Safe storage is one obvious point we advise dealers on – but we also educate them in the correct processes involved in maintaining registers. We can advise them on transferring to electronic record-keeping – taking the pressure off them and allowing them to stay working in the shop front.”
The service has arisen, Danny says, from a shortage of staff in police licensing departments, meaning they can’t fulfil the ‘health check’ facility themselves. “It’s very sad to see the state of some forces in terms of firearms licensing. It is, in my view, wholly down to the financial constraints placed on the process. Police departments are having to prioritise and focus on the aspects of firearms licensing that do require more immediate attention. The RFD who is perceived to be ticking along just fine won’t get a regular check-up from the police, and maybe gradually their standards of compliance are eroding.
“Then it’s not until the third year of the RFD certificate, when renewal is coming up and they’ve had little interaction in the last two, that we notice the situation has deteriorated to a mess. We don’t want to see RFDs at the point of renewal being hauled across the coals, when a bit of work earlier down the line could have prevented it. This is where I see myself operating – providing a support service to plug a gap that the police are unable to fill.”
It’s a service time-poor business owners might appreciate – but then again, is there really a need for it, given we’ve managed to survive on our own for this long? This is where the sticky point comes in: the possibility that dealers aren’t complying with regulations as fully as they like to think. “Over the years in my role as a firearms enquiry officer,” says Danny, “there were certain times when an RFD lost sight of the requirement to be compliant with firearms legislation.
“Examples include ongoing inaccuracies in recording details on gun registers, leading to inaccuracies on clients’ certificates. Whether it is time-pressure to write something quickly in the book, or the bad habit of only recording entries one or two days a week – so they’ve got a backlog and all of a sudden there’s something more pressing that needs their attention – mistakes do happen.
“Another thing is the overstocking of ammunition, powders and other explosive articles. The RFD has to be compliant with the Explosives Regulations 2014 – and a lot of them don’t fully appreciate the limits to what they may keep. The law compels them to apply to the police for a licence once they exceed a certain limit.
“Then there are health and safety matters in terms of storing ammunition and propellant powder. The regulations require that powders are stored in a very precise manner.
“I’ve seen slip-ups on all these points, because they’re things the RFD probably doesn’t have time to do, because they need to be at the shop front dealing with the customer. But SETAC can advise on them all, going all the way up to designing bespoke storage for the retailer’s premises.”
In fact, that’s something SETAC has done recently – liaising with a dealer and the Health and Safety Executive when the dealer wanted to scale up the amount of ammunition it kept on site, effectively managing the rebuild of large parts of the dealer’s property to facilitate storage. But the task doesn’t have to be that mammoth for Danny to get involved. “Once initial compliance is established, I tend to work with the client almost on a check-sheet basis, based on what the police would use if they came to do an inspection. I’ll say, for example, ‘Let’s do a dip-sample of what you’ve got in stock versus what your register shows,’ or I’ll talk about key security – where are keys kept, and how are they safeguarded when you’ve got lots of people in the shop?
“Ultimately, my vision is for the RFD to be compliant, and at that point I would probably have to walk away. But part of the service we offer is an ongoing health check. I might come back once a year and spend a day with you going through everything we’ve been through to get you to the compliance stage and making sure you’re continuing. We also offer a package whereby the client pays us an annual retainer, which then gives them telephone and email contact with myself or other independent consultants I engage to look after them – and if they’ve got a query, they’ll get a timely response with the answer they need. If it needs a site visit, we’ll factor that in as well.”
Putting a business’s compliance out to SETAC brings obvious time-saving benefits – but the ultimate benefit is the peace of mind the retailer receives. There are some myths and misconceptions about the law that circulate, says Danny, and he’s got the insider knowledge to set those straight. “As in any business, non-compliance with the legislation that governs you is not an option. But it is often seen as a burden.
“My partner and I run a farm – and part of running a farm is that there’s a lot of paperwork. You’re out during the daytime looking after your animals and the land – the last thing you want is to come in after a rough day outside and sit and do paperwork. The gun trade is analogous – these guys are pushing guns across the counter all day long, they are constantly thinking about getting the books right in terms of finances, but they also need to get it right in terms of legal compliance. I take that problem away from them.”
Contact Danny Kay at SETAC: 07908 919697, www.setac.co.uk