JIS News

A Bill to amend the 1967 Firearms Act was passed in the Upper House last Friday (July 22) with five amendments.
The modifications to the legislation form part of the government’s efforts to minimize the threat to public safety and national security posed by the proliferation of firearms, by streamlining the procedures for the issuing of licences, certificates and permits.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator A.J. Nicholson, who piloted the legislation, explained that the legislation sought to amend the principal act in order to establish a new, independent authority that would be responsible for the granting and revocation of licences, permits and certificates.
This authority, he said, would be composed of persons who were of high integrity and able to exercise sound judgment in fulfilling their responsibilities under the Act. The body would also have the power to hire competent staff and investigators. The Bill also makes provision for the establishment of a review board to hear appeals in respect of the refusal to grant or the revocation of licences, certificates and permits.
The Attorney General said the increased use of the gun has created havoc to a far greater extent than natural disasters, major traffic accidents and other occurrences. Furthermore, he noted that in recent times, there have been too many allegations of improprieties and irregularities in the granting of licences and permits on the part of competent authorities.
As such, he said, the Bill sought to revise policies and procedures in order to create a more efficient and effective regime. In addition, the licensing process is to be centralized in an effort to minimize and eliminate the corrupt practices and allow for regular audits and security reviews of all licensed holders and their weapons. It seeks to enable the development and maintenance of an inventory of all licences issued to private citizens and security firms. The Bill also revises the fines levied under the principal Act to more stringent costs.
Opposition Senator Arthur Williams, while supporting the legislation, proposed that it include the establishment of a National Firearms Registry, which would list the type of firearms and serial numbers, in addition to documenting ballistic records of all legally issued firearms. He also suggested that a period be inserted for the reviewing of all licences.
Senator Nicholson in his reply, pointed out that the authority to be established, would be responsible for all functions relating to documenting and keeping a registry of firearms. Where the suggestion for a reviewing of licences is concerned, Senator Nicholson said an amendment in this regard would counter provisions already in the Act, but could instead be made part of the functions of the authority. He said that further consultations could be held between both sides of the House to resolve concerns surrounding a review period, but noted that this was more of a policy than legislative issue.
The Attorney General said further, that the present amendments did not mark the final changes to be made to the Act, as from the recent talks between National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips and private sector representatives, the matter of importation and exportation and transshipment of guns would have to be addressed more fully, and further amendments made to the provision.
Meanwhile, Senator Kern Spencer, who is also Parliamentary Secretary in the National Security Ministry, said the amendments would contribute significantly to an improvement in public safety. He said he was pleased with the proposed increase in the sanctions, which he believed would act as a deterrent to crime as the current fines were “laughable”.The Bill was piloted in the House of Representatives on Wednesday,June 1.

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