Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has assured members of the Chaguanas East electoral district that he is working assiduously to clear the backlog of Firearm User Licenses (FULs). And he is also making it clear that he is not averse to granting citizens gun licenses once they qualify for them.
Griffith made the promise during a meeting at the office of Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim, where several members of the public and business community raised concerns over the police’s tardiness in granting them gun licenses.
“I do apologise for what has happened over the past few years,” Griffith said.
“Requests would have been made and not even the common courtesy was given to you all of a response. I am trying to clean up a backlog of over 15,000 applications. I am dealing with it and again, each one I have to put my signature about 12 different places. It takes a while but I’m cleaning it up.”
In the past, he said his predecessors were hesitant in granting licenses because they felt there were too many guns in the country. However, he said this is not his position.
“For far too long, commissioners of police will say I don’t think too many people should get firearms. That is not your (the CoP’s) business; you (the CoP) have to adhere to the law,” Griffith said.
“I want to assure we are not putting it on hold because the perception of a commissioner of police as to whether persons should or should not have is irrelevant. If you have the criteria, you have what is required…I would provide you with that.”
In fact, he said it was proven that law-abiding citizens having firearms did not result in an increase in crime.
“In the statistics shown, the number of persons with licensed firearms - it is virtually non-existent, it is less than one per cent of persons who have FULs have been involved in using their weapon to commit a crime. So it shows that it has proven to be effective by law-abiding citizens having firearms.”
In fact, he said many of these very people had their lives saved because they had a firearm.
Griffith also warned that owning a firearm also comes with a responsibility and owners should ensure they get proper training in safe usage and weapon maintenance.
Griffith also claimed that in the past six months he had granted more FULs than in the past six years by his predecessors.
On February 21, the Firearms Section of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service was closed for an internal audit which added to the backlog. It has since been reopened.
- by Rishard Khan. Photo by Anisto Alves.