It’s an offence to take a firearm to a public meeting or protest – PM
January 15, 2016
It’s an offence to take a firearm to a public meeting or protest – PM

Defeated New Democratic Party (NDP) Central Leeward candidate Ben Exeter may have breached the law when he took his licensed firearm into Kingstown on Tuesday, December 29.

Exeter was among NDP protesters outside Parliament when he was approached by police officers. The interaction between Exeter and the police resulted in Exeter being charged for assaulting police officer Cuthbert Morris, resisting arrest and assaulting Granville DeFreitas, causing actual bodily harm.

The situation escalated after police officers found out that Exeter was in possession of a firearm, a weapon that they later found out he has a licence to carry.

Last week during a press briefing at Cabinet Room, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, quoting from the Public Order Act said that Section 14 of that Act prohibits persons from taking an offensive weapon to public meetings or processions.

“Any person who while present at a public meeting has with him any offensive weapon otherwise than in pursuance of lawful authority is guilty of an offence,” said Gonsalves quoting the act.

“I understand that some people feel, and I’m not commenting on any particular case, that if you have a licenced firearm, it is perfectly in order for you to attend a meeting, a gathering with a licensed firearm,” the Prime Minister said.

He added, “well you may say, once you have a licensed firearm, that’s your lawful authority, but the law longstops you and says, don’t go so fast. Law is right reason…at least 99.9 per cent of the time, occasionally the law may be an A.S.S but the law is basically right reason”, Gonsalves said.

He further quoted the Act, “a person shall not be deemed to be acting in pursuance of lawful authority unless he is acting in his capacity as a servant of the crown, for example you are not a servant of crown if you are an ordinary person going about your business or a successful or defeated candidate for that matter in an election…”

Gonsalves, who is a lawyer, said that persons allowed to carry weapons at public meetings or processions include persons acting as a servant of the crown, any local authority, a police officer or a member of a recognized corps or a member of a fire brigade.

Persons who break this law can be imprisoned for three months and fined $2,000.

The Prime Minister encouraged persons who are protesting the results of the December 9 General Elections to be mindful of the law and try to stay within their rights.

“I don’t want in any way to throw cold water on anybody protesting, I understand protest. Just understand that there is a legal framework, know your boundaries, stay within them and if you are taking liberties with the boundaries and the police pull you up, abide by what the police is telling you, or suffer the consequences if the police decide to take action under the law,” stressed the Prime Minister.

Exeter makes his second appearance in court on January 25, but there are no indications from police that he will be charged for having the firearm in his possession during the protest.(LC)