August 10, 2010
Bill passed to establish a Firearms Licensing Board

The Firearms Act 1995 has been amended to address the backlog of requests for firearms by law abiding citizens.{{more}}

To this end, a bill was passed at last Thursday’s sitting of Parliament to establish a Firearms Licensing Board to manage the process.

At present, Commissioner of Police, Keith Miller, has sole responsibility for the granting of firearms license.

Tabling the bill, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr.Ralph Gonsalves said: “The purpose of the bill is to establish a Firearms Licensing Board and, in light of the construction of a new firing range at Arnos Vale, to facilitate the use of the range to promote the sport of shooting and training in firearms safety, and to simplify the variety of types of license firearms users by the adoption of a single firearms license. Basically those are the three central purposes of this bill.”

Gonsalves said the proposed Firearm Licensing Board will include the Commissioner of Police, but will relieve him of his responsibility under the whole act, to be the sole person to grant a firearm license.

“The Board will bring a wider range of experience to address the issues. Five individuals will share the responsibility. There will be far more capacity to address the demand for applications from the public, and it is expected that the backlog of unattended applications neither granted nor rejected, will become a thing of the past,” said the Minister of National Security.

The Board is expected to be comprised of the Commissioner of Police (or his nominee), the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, and “three other persons nominated by the Minister (National Security) who the Cabinet is satisfied that they are of high integrity and are able to exercise good judgment in fulfilling any responsibility under this act.” Gonsalves suggested that a proviso be placed in the Act that politicians not be members of the Board.

Giving another reason for amending the law, Gonsalves said under the current system, the Commissioner of Police sends individuals for psychological profiles. However, persons may pay fees ranging from $300-$500 to assist in the determination, but sometimes for various reasons, they don’t hear whether or not they have been granted a license.

“I watch over the last nine, ten years, I see the list of persons who have been granted licenses and I don’t want to make any criticism about any Commissioner from the past on to the present, but I sometimes wonder how some people get licenses and some don’t get,” said Gonsalves, adding “I just don’t understand.”

“It makes no sense that a lot of criminals out there can be getting guns coming in from the United States of America through one way or the other and a law abiding person can’t have a firearm to protect themselves, their property and their family,” said Gonsalves, noting that the legislation will strengthen law and order in the country.

Dr. Gonsalves said the Firearms Licensing Board will complement the services offered at the soon-to-be completed firing range at Arnos Vale on lands close to the National Sports Council. A new association called The St.Vincent and the Grenadines National Shooting Association will run the new range.

Senator St.Clair Leacock of the opposition New Democratic Party contributing to the Bill said the naming of the shooting association raises the question, ‘Is the emphasis on shooting, or is it on holding a firearm?’

Leacock added that he did not see any provision made for regulations. He also emphasized the importance of having discipline on the range to always maintain safety. (HN)