CoP to lose sole say on guns
(CNS): The country’s legislators had another rare moment of harmony on Wednesday when they all voted to support a private member’s motion to establish a firearms authority to decide who gets a gun licence. Currently, it is the commissioner of police alone who makes the decision to grant or deny a firearms license to an applicant on Grand Cayman but legislatures have voted to amend legislation which will see the country’s top cop share the decision with at least three local justices of the peace and the president of the gun club. The motion brought by the opposition leader is as a result of what the country’s politicians say is the commissioner’s increasing reluctance to allow ordinary law abiding citizens to own firearms.
The original motion, which was filed by PPM leader Alden McLaughlin and backed by his colleague, East End MLA Arden McLean, received the support of the government with an amendment made by West Bay backbencher Cline Glidden to include the gun club president as someone who could bring expertise to the authority, which the opposition also welcomed, subject to discussions with the club.
McLaughlin said that he and all members of the House had received representations from their constituents that it was becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to get a firearms licence unless they were a farmer or a member of the gun club. “Over the past twenty years it appears to have grown increasingly restrictive,” the opposition leader said, about who could and could not own a gun. “Although there are no provisions in the law for it, the regulations now seem to support a policy that licences are only granted to farmers and members of the gun club.”
The current and previous police commissioners have made no secret of their opposition to ordinary people having firearms, McLaughlin said, as the senior police believe that more licenced guns on island also seems to mean that more guns can fall into the hands of criminals. He said that as far as he was aware very few private guns had ever been lost or stolen and knew of no circumstance where a stolen or lost licenced weapon was used to kill anyone.
McLaughlin pointed out that criminals prefer unlicenced weapons, given that licensed ones tend to be easier to trace. He also pointed out that as the police appear to have lost at least two of their own guns from the police armoury, they were hardly in a position to prevent law abide local citizens from acquiring a licence on the grounds that they might lose them or not keep them secure enough.
“I do not believe the commissioner of police by himself is the best placed individual to make the decisions,” he said as he called for the creation of the authority.
The motion gained the support of the government, which added the gun club president because Gidden said he would be able to offer advice on the adequate security and storage arrangements for applicants and his expertise would make for a stronger authority. McLaughlin urged the government to draft the bill as soon as possible, despite the possible stumbling blocks it may encounter over the proposal.
The commissioner has made it clear that he does not approve of private firearm ownership as he believes that the more weapons there are the more weapons can fall into the wrong hands. Although there has never been any indication that a legally held gun has been lost and stolen and ended up being used in a fatal shooting, one was used in a robbery last year. The weapon used during the robbery of Mostyns Esso in Bodden Town, which was used to fire at police officers during the getaway, was a stolen gun, officials have said.
In February last year, Ezzard Miller moved an almost identical motion, which asked government to establish a committee that included two justices of the peace and the police commissioner to approve or deny licenses. At the time Miller had proposed the motion on the grounds that a number of his North Side constituents had made representations to him about the difficulties they were having, even as farmers, getting licenses.
Miller also told of a particular incident which had led him to suggest an amendment that the commissioner was not the best person to be making the decisions alone.
He revealed how a former commissioner of police had been questioned about the delays and refusals of such licences at a public meeting in his constituency and defended his position, suggesting that there was no need to have a licence for a 12 gauge shotgun because farmers could kill their cows with an iron bolt or a knife, and they could poison the rabbits. “I can promise you that any respect that the commissioner of police had hoped to get from that community was entirely destroyed by that statement when one old gentleman whispered to me, 'But how can he be chief of police in Cayman, and he doesn’t know that I can’t eat rabbit after I poison it?'" Miller told his legislative colleagues.
At the time his motion was not accepted by government and the deputy governor Donovan Ebanks, who spoke on government’s behalf, suggested that licences were not being refused that often and if they were, there was an appeals process. He also said that while there were emerging and growing views on the purposes for which licences should be issued, which was not something that is prescribed in the law, government was not inclined to broaden the remit.
CNS has contacted the RCIPS for comment regarding the decision to move licensing from the sole discretion of the commissioner and is awaiting a response.
Gun licences on the Sister Islands are issued by the district commissioner and not by the police commissioner.
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