Laxness behind lapses: Shooting body chief

A tighter rein will be kept on armoury management at the National Shooting Centre (NSC) with licensing watched closely in particular, following an unprecedented seizure of firearms from the facility last week.

Singapore Shooting Association (SSA) president Michael Vaz told The Straits Times yesterday that, having run into resistance while trying to introduce a security revamp over the last year, the latest episode now means additional backing from Sport Singapore (SportSG) and other stakeholders to crack the whip.

"This was a complete lapse and breach of every rule in running an armoury. It's a major issue," he said.

While one or two licensing irregularities showing up on routine audits is fairly common, this latest check of the Old Choa Chu Kang Road facility that resulted in the police seizing a total of 77 firearms is out of the ordinary.

Among the firearms seized: One with an expired licence came under the Safra Shooting Club, one belonged to a Singapore Gun Club (SGC) member who had not paid the licence fee, while the rest came under the Singapore Rifle Association (SRA). All are member clubs of the SSA.

It is believed these irregularities are a result of some of the arms not having the proper licences. This could be due to members quitting the club, leaving the country or, in some cases, having passed away.

A statement from the Singapore Police Force said: "On Feb 2, the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department conducted an arms audit at the armouries of the SGC and the SRA. Due to serious licensing irregularities, the police took possession of a number of arms. Police investigations are ongoing."

SportSG, the national sports governing body, has closed the ranges at the NSC while the issue is being resolved. It will give the green light to reopen the facility after the police sign off on it.

The Straits Times understands that such lapses, if left unaddressed, could lead to the police withdrawing the licence to operate the armoury.

In response to queries from ST, an SRA official said the club will co-operate fully with investigations.

Said Mr Conrad Chung, the SRA's first assistant honorary secretary: "We are disappointed and regret this has happened, and are unaware of such an event ever occurring in our history.

"We will work with the authorities in relation to systems and procedures in order to achieve the highest level of safety and security."

While a scheduled annual shoot involving Singapore and Japan shooters this weekend at the NSC has been cancelled, provisions have been made for the national shooters to continue training at the facility so that their training will not be affected.

The SGC has informed its members of the temporary closure of the range while reminding them to renew their firearms licences on time.

Mr Vaz, who is also the SGC's president, said lax attitudes in terms of managing an armoury have led to these lapses.

He said: "This is the first time I've heard (of so many lapses).

"The audit was far more intensive than ever before. We decided to close the NSC to facilitate the investigations, help clean things up faster."

This article was first published on February 08, 2016.
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