Rifle charity censured by regulator for promoting recreational shooting for civilians

The National Rifle Association acted outside its charitable objects by promoting recreational shooting competitions, the Charity Commission has concluded. 

A commission compliance case found that the charity, which has objects of promoting the efficiency of the armed forces for the defence of the realm, was not furthering its charitable purpose in organising recreational shooting for civilians at its base in Bisley, Surrey. 

A report published by the regulator today says the commission considered there was “only the most tenuous, if any, connection between civilian recreational rifle and pistol shooting and the NRA’s charitable purpose”. 

The report says the commission issued the charity with a formal action plan under charitable law requiring its trustees to review its activities and demonstrate how it would achieve what it was set up to do. 

Trustees will be required to report to the regulator on a quarterly basis on the progress made, the report says. 

“The commission’s clear regulatory advice is that recreational civilian marksmanship activities do not further the purpose of the charity and, therefore, it does not consider these activities charitable,” it says. 

“In light of this, the trustees have restructured and reorganised its affairs, in accordance with the commission’s guidance.”

The regulator was also critical of how the charity, which had an income of £6.2m in 2018, was managing its relationship with the National Shooting Centre, a wholly-owned trading subsidiary.

“The commission examined this arrangement and found that it was not clear to members of the charity or the public how the two organisations were separate and independent, due to the overlapping activities,” the report says. 

“It was unclear how conflicts of interest and loyalty were managed as the charity’s chief executive was the NSC’s only director and decision-maker.”

The report says that, in response to the commission’s advice, the charity has taken steps to ensure the separation and independence of the two organisations, including appointing an independent director of the NSC, restructuring its website and introducing new contracts around the NSC’s use of charity assets. 

The charity was also criticised by the commission for how it had handled disputes relating to property the association was letting out to tenants and private non-charitable clubs, and for a lack of control over the management of these leases. 

The charity was instructed to strengthen its governance in this area, which it has done, the report says.

In 2015, the Cambridgeshire Target Shooting Association lost its bid to register as a charity after the charity tribunal ruled that shooting as a sport did not require enough exertion to be a charitable purpose for the public benefit.

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