…Opposition cries for ‘insensitivity’
By virtue of its one seat majority, the government, on Friday, passed the Firearms Amendment Bill
despite pleas from the Opposition for reconsideration and amendments.
The Firearms Act makes provision for a range of fees in relation to shotguns, pistols, revolvers and rifles. The amendment secures a hike in firearm licences fees.
Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said that Cabinet had approved an increase in the fees.
The fee for a shotgun licence has moved from $2000 to $5000; the cost for pistol and revolver licences goes from $5000 to $25,000; rifle fees will be increased from $7,500 to $40,000 and dealer’s licences will be issued at a cost of $150,000, up from $20,000. These increases are expected to take effect from May 1.
Ramjattan told the House of the “need” for the increases. In this regard, he spoke of the revenues to be spent on processing the applications for licences.
He said that it requires great effort from members of the Guyana Police Force and takes away resources that would have serviced other matters.
Ramjattan noted that there is a three-stage process. This starts with the application letter being sent to the Commander of the Division who assigns a rank to go check on the applicant’s character in his or her community.
The application is then sent to the Commissioner’s Office to ensure that the applicant’s antecedents are positive in the sense that there were no previous convictions. The application then goes to the Firearm Licensing Board. It is then decided, at that stage, whether the applicant is fit. If so, the application is sent to the Minister for the final stamp of approval.
“All these require resources,” said Ramjattan. He indicated that there are hundreds of applications to be processed.
Responding to issues raised by the Opposition when the hike was first announced, Ramjattan said that generally, for one to be granted a firearm licence in the category of rifle, pistol or revolver, that person has to be dealing with large sums of money.
Therefore, the fee should not be formidable and should cause no problems for those persons, said Ramjattan.
In relation to the shotgun that is a category that involves farmers and Amerindians who do hunting in the interior. That is why the increase was so small.”
It was revealed that there are 4500 registered pistols, 3000 registered shotguns and 3047 registered rifles by the Guyanese public. Ramjattan also noted that there are no more than five dealers.
PPP Member of Parliament, Dharamkumar Seeraj, said that while he can understand Ramjattan’s point about the process required for the granting of the licence he does not think that that argument can extend to justify why the cost for renewal is also being hiked.
The MP said that $5,000 may seem like a small sum to the “big ones” but every dollar means something to the ordinary man. His reference was to farmers who need shot guns to protect their crops and live stock.
He said, “$5000 can spell the difference between eating today and going to bed hungry.”
Seeraj said that the government is insensitive to the ordinary people. He said that this is mainly because Government members are insulated from economic hardships by especially the recent salary increase.
The PPP MP told the House that there is no silver lining beyond the dark cloud hanging over the heads of the ordinary people.
The government was also challenged by former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee who claimed that the increase will open the window for more illegal guns coming into the country. He also predicted that dealers will raise their selling prices since increase also covers them.
“We heard that illegal firearms are entering this country….that firearms are pouring into our country across the border. It seems to be that the attention should be focused on addressing that situation,” said Rohee.
The Bill was subsequently passed in the National Assembly with the government voting down an amendment by the Opposition for the increase to be waived for farmers. (Abena Rockcliffe)
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