Up for the challenge and looking to the future

Welcome to my first column as new National President of the SSAA and let me say it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. I have plenty of ideas to bring to the Board about where we could take our organisation. First up I must thank outgoing President Geoff Jones for the outstanding work he has done and his efforts over more than six years. I never coveted Geoff’s job but when the position became vacant it was an opportunity to evaluate an organisation which has been serving its members since 1948.  We have undergone many changes in that time and the reality of how the world changes and how communities interact are new opportunities for us.

Hopefully my background will stand me in good stead for what lies ahead as I’ve run my own business in Coffs Harbour for 33 years, served on a national commercial Board from 1999 until 2017 with three years as Chairman and served on the NSW SSAA Board since 2011 where I’m currently president. My preferred activity in the firearms space is hunting and my preferred hunting is for sambar in the Victorian high country and, while pigs in the south-west plains of Queensland requires a different style, I’m happy in both environments.

Work and family can limit hunting time so access to a local range is important, especially in NSW where mandatory attendances are monitored. My branch is a benchrest range which is ideal for my other firearms passion – trying to tune a hunting-weight rifle to shoot as accurately as a competition one. So far the benchrest shooters are winning . . . but a man can dream.

The changes in how the world interacts, mentioned previously, have an impact on our very important ranges. Population growth, urban sprawl, community tolerance and the regulations to manage those issues are closing in on our ranges – range models are changing and we need to be managing that impact to protect our sport. SSAA National has introduced a new committee to look at range templates and how we can manage our ranges to remain operational and accessible into a long future.

I come from a farming background and, as new SSAA President, see one of my goals as trying to normalise the perception of guns within the general community and this is where our ranges and competition shooters are such a great asset. Many of our volunteers – the range officers and people who look after our ranges – come from the competition side of SSAA.

A new shooter who’s a SSAA member has the privilege of access to our ranges and experienced volunteers to assist that shooter with firearms safety while training them to be a more competent firearms user, something which further builds the safety of that shooter in the field.  Safety, training, knowledge and ethics assist in making a respected firearms user.

As I settle into this role I have maybe half a dozen strategic visions I’d like to see happen within the SSAA, but let’s take one step at a time. Our decision-making and planning from both state and national perspectives must be evidence-based and practical and the Board needs to be fully engaged and approve change. Initially there needs to be an overhaul of the national constitution which no longer meets the requirements of an organisation of our size and complexity. This will be a major undertaking but we’ve already formed a Constitutional Review Committee which has developed the pathway for reform.

We’re also looking at the tricky topic of the three-month allowance for those who let their SSAA membership lapse. Police are now developing and implementing online real-time management of our memberships and licencing, so if you rely on SSAA as the genuine reason for your firearms licence, if your membership lapses police will know and in some states will act to remove your firearms. Your membership is important – do not let it lapse.

But that’s it for starters – I’m delighted to be on board, privileged to be your President and I look forward to updating our Association’s ever-expanding membership via Australian Shooter each month. Good luck to you hunters and may all our competition shooters be right on target.

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