Firstly, I am not writing this on the behalf of, for, at the behest of or with any association with any of the groups I talk about. I’m writing this as the Manager of Beaton Firearms and these words are solely my own.
As many of you may already know, yesterday morning the President and Vice President of the Western Australia Firearms Traders Association (WAFTA) attended the WA Firearms Consultative Working Group (WAFCWG) meeting and issued the Police with a notice that they would no longer be attending the meetings.
The President of WAFTA; the organization representing a bulk of the firearm dealers, repairers and manufacturers across Western Australia, read out a letter to everyone present. The reasons for this organisation leaving this and future meetings was due to the constant lack of open consultation by the Western Australia Police Licensing Services (PLS). ‘PLS must understand that poor communication and service must be greatly improved before solid foundation for effective consultation can be laid’.
The Consultative Working Group Meeting is a meeting held quarterly between the major stake holders within the firearms industry and Police Licensing Services. The Western Australian Firearms Traders Association; shooting groups such as the SSAA, WAPA and others; farming industry representatives such as the WAFarmers and PGA attend, with Police Licensing Services, to discuss their relevant issues.
There are many issues with the running of the actual meetings themselves which I won’t talk about here. What I will talk about here is the issues raised by the WAFTA and the ultimate reason for them leaving.
Lack of open consultation. As many of you in the industry will know, there have been many issues raised over the last several years that have come out of left field; taken the industry by surprise and have negatively affected nearly all members of the firearm community. From recent items such as the Very Powerful Firearms issue and requests for proof of Club Support, to long standing issues such as freight, ‘same caliber’ and property letter sizes.
Many shooters have been victim of the huge policy swings back and forth by Police Licensing Services – in some cases it’s almost daily. Depending what day of the week you get an officer on, you may be able to send a firearm part or reloading components in the mail – other times it’s illegal. If you’re over 65 you have probably received a letter from licensing requesting proof that you are still an active shooter – something you’ve never been required to do before. Other shooters haven’t received any correspondence. These issues could be raised at a consultation meeting – if not to discuss the relevance or reason of such measures at least a ‘heads up’ to the representatives present. These issues either never get raised at a meeting (even with considerable opportunity to do so, such as the Very Powerful Firearms issue), or swept under the carpet, such as the ongoing issues involving freight.
There is no obligation for Police Licensing Services to consult with the industry on every issue – especially when they are sensitive in nature or urgent. None of these issues are either sensitive or urgent. Not only is it a complete waste of time holding a consultation meeting and refusing to consult but it’s an insult to the organisations who attend who are misled by the Police to believe they are worthy of consultation.
The ongoing attitude of Police Licensing Services. This has been raised several times as an issue – it was the primary reason that the WAFTA threatened to leave the Consultation process back when the new Commissioner was sworn in. It was my understanding that the WAFTA agreed to stay in the meetings, as an act of good faith to the new administration as well as being hopeful that the new hierarchy was going to change the dictatorial nature of Police Licensing Services. But the cancerous culture within Police Licensing Services has only spread to infect the new administration too. The Police have been given ample opportunity to address the issues within Police Licensing Services and the consultation process and done nothing.
The WAFTA leaving the consultation process should not have been a surprise to Police Licensing Services. Yet the officer chairing the consultation meeting on Monday seemed both surprised and disappointed when he read the letter presented to him by the WAFTA. He took a considerable amount of time to read the letter and grasp the gravity of what was happening before allowing the president of the WAFTA to read the contents aloud.
It’s plausible that the Police only agreed to engage in the consultation process so they can use it to their own political advantage and there is certainly no evidence to suggest otherwise. It’s also possible that those higher up in Licensing do not intend to cause the havoc that many of the lower level officers cause with their unbridled negative ideology toward firearms and firearm owners, but then they are just as culpable with their naivety.
The implications of the WAFTA leaving the working group is considerable. Many of the issues that WAFTA have raised have wide spread implications that affect not only the firearm industry, but shooters as well. This isn’t to say the issues raised by other groups at the consultation meetings are not equally important and deserve consideration, but it would be fair to say that the issues that the WAFTA tackle on behalf of firearm dealers affect the employees of those businesses; the customers of those businesses and the success of shooting in Western Australia in general. The WAFTA leaving the consultation meetings means the Police have no avenue to discuss potential changes in legislation, regulation or policy and will be wasting hundreds of thousands of tax payers dollars and thousands of hours of man power tied up in legal battles. This wastage could be avoided if Police Licensing Services would just learn to communicate with the industry.
The SSAA issued a letter last week to the Police Minister stating that they were not going to attend the consultation meetings anymore either. If the remaining invitees to the consultation meetings think they are getting value for their members by attending, then I wish them the best. But now that the WAFTA was yawned I wouldn’t be surprised if other organisations decide they too are sick of the poor communication and leave as well.