The Second Amendment Foundation and the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities (WFSA) met in Palermo, Italy, on October 4 and 5, 2007, to plan for a looming battle over global gun control.
SAF joined the WFSA in 2006. The WFSA was formed in 1997, and is an officially recognized United Nations non-governmental organization, or NGO. SAF was represented by Julianne Gottlieb. The WFSA has 38 members including most of the major hunting and sport shooting organizations and the firearms and ammunition manufacturer associations. The WFSA Board meets twice a year.
In two days of meetings the WFSA Executive Committee evaluated the various threats to the international firearms community. These include the United Nations, the European Union, changing environmental regulations, regional groups such as the Organization of American States, dedicated special-interest anti-gun groups, and, in addition, international airlines which are resisting the carrying of hunters’ firearms.
The WFSA Executive Secretary for the Americas, Thomas Mason, reviewed for the group the United Nations’ extensive future program on “small arms and light weapons”, its term for firearms. The UN will have eight weeks’ worth of conferences and meetings on firearms and ammunition in 2008. These include a Group of Government Experts (GGE) on international regulation of ammunition and also a major international conference in New York in July.
“The biggest challenge we face internationally is the so called ‘Arms Trade Treaty’, or ATT. The UN will have an ATT Group of Government Experts meet for almost four weeks in 2008 to lay the groundwork for a future treaty,” said Mason. The actual treaty drafting process will probably start in 2010 and might take up to three years. The WFSA will be present at these 2008 UN meetings. The resolution that started the UN ATT treaty process passed the General Assembly last fall on a vote of 153 to 1, with the US being the only no vote.”
The WFSA Board was also briefed on the situation in the European Union by WFSA Executive Secretary for Europe, Vito Genco
Genco described the way that Europe has become a breeding ground for the developments of new directives on firearms possession, firearms and ammunition control, environment protection and hunting guidelines. The fact that the 27 States are allowed to regulate these complex matters in their own national legislation does not help the EU effort to adopt uniform criteria. Traditions are different. Security is driven by local conditions. The European Union is nevertheless trying vigorously to bring together the laws of Member States, such as we see in the present efforts to amend the very important and recent Directive on Firearms 91/477 to implement the UN Protocol on Illicit Trafficking on Firearms, which in turn supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. “Regulation is being laid upon regulation,” he said.
Regarding this specific Directive, European WFSA members have argued to the EU authorities that the fact the Directive will have provisions dealing with civilian firearms possession in the EU internal market is an entirely different matter from the transnational traffic of military products.
Genco mentioned that in accordance with the principle of better legislation, the current revision process should be used not only to adapt the Directive to the UN Protocol, but also to bring to the Directive the improvements that are needed. The following topics are part of the current discussion at the trilateral meeting of EU Commission-Council of Ministry and Parliament: this covers categories of firearms, age limits, convertible weapons, the firearms pass, and the marking of firearms.
Genco also described a WFSA workshop on shooting ranges held in Palermo (Italy), on October 2-3, 2007, just prior to the WFSA meetings, and titled: “Lead Reclamation, Backstops And Sound Reduction”. The Environment Sub-Committee is playing a central role as a clearing house, where top experts from all over the world gather on a regular basis to present and discuss the best management solutions and the most sophisticated developments and science concerning the responsible care of the environment.
The advantages of the collaboration between all involved parties worldwide have been acknowledged by a panel of regulators, hunters and sport shooting associations.
Three workshops have been held on different environmental topics, all with great success. This latest workshop was another milestone on the road toward sustainable shooting activity. Dr. Dick Peddicord (USA) said: “It was most informative, and I learned things that I’m already putting to use. I consider it a privilege to have been invited to participate. I hope my contribution was helpful.”
Major Frank Compton (UK) said: “As ever at such gatherings, I came away with an increased understanding of the environment and safety on and around shooting ranges. Of particular interest was the description of the noise reduction measures.”
The WFSA runs global initiatives to drive continuous improvements in health, safety and environmental performance, and to listen to and to talk with its stakeholders. The WFSA cooperates with governments and organizations in the development and implementation of effective regulations and standards, and to meet or go beyond them.
The WFSA Board also took the initiative on several other projects. At the request of Safari Club International, the WFSA will begin a major project on the airline transport of firearms. Incidents where hunters and shooters have difficulties transporting their firearms on airlines are on the increase. Recently, American Airlines announced it might not transport firearms to Europe because of the United Nations Firearms Protocol. Both Safari Club and WFSA officials pointed out this is a misapplication of the UN Firearms Protocol. The WFSA Board appointed a working group on the airline matter to be led by the NRA of America.
Other WFSA projects include a future workshop called the “Environmental and Economic Benefits of Hunting”. A working group has been established to lay the groundwork for this workshop, possibly to be held in as 2008.
On the more academic side, the Board established a working group to counter claims by the international anti-gun think-tank based in Geneva known as the “Small Arms Survey” (SAS). PROTELL, the Swiss shooting association (named after the Swiss patriot William Tell) and Herman Suter, its representative to the WFSA, will lead this effort.
The Board also planned for a WFSA appearance before the UN General Assembly, First Committee, in late October. Every year, as part of its disarmament agenda, the UN GA discusses what it calls “small arms” and we know as firearms. The WFSA is one of a select few NGOs that are allowed to speak before the body.
The WFSA Board also made decisions regarding its annual meeting in Nuremberg, Germany at the European equivalent of the SHOT Show known as “IWA” (a German acronym for “Sporting Goods Show”). The meeting will be on March 14, 2008, and this year’s theme will be “Hunters and Sport Shooters: Partners in Freedom”.