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Review of gun law begins

Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee

The Firearms Licensing Approval Board has been instructed to examine Guyana’s gun laws and regulations and recommend how they can be overhauled, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said Monday.

“I completely put that out of my head. I thought the best thing would be to put it to those men who are not political. Let them come up with something and make some recommendations then I could look at it,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

Rohee said since he and President Donald Ramotar publicly pronounced two weeks ago about the need to take licensed guns out of the hands of undesirables, he has taken a hands-off approach to the process.

The Firearms Licensing Approval Board, he said, has been asked to examine the existing rules for granting and renewing licences. “I have asked them to take into account all that has been said over the past few weeks…and come up with some proposals,” he said.

He shrugged off assertions by Shadow Home Affairs Minister Winston Felix that the Firearms Act is not being allowed to work in a manner that its framers had intended. “That is nonsense. I don’t agree…so I wouldn’t worry with Felix,” said Rohee, adding that the man who went berserk last month was issued a gun license although the board had been already in place.

Rohee said a number of named former high-ranking officers of the Guyana Police Force have over the years engaged in irregularities in the processing of firearm licenses. “Every law has loopholes and those who administer the law can take advantage of the loopholes that’s why we have put in place a board,” he said.

The board members are businessman Peter DeGroot, former Director of Prisons Cecil Kilkenny and Psychiatrist Dr. Bhairo Harry

In the wake of a gold miner going berserk last month and killing four persons, including two policemen, government has said that the renewal of gun-licenses should not be automatic.

But the main opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has voiced disagreement with that tactic. Instead, that political grouping preferred to scrap firearm licenses only after the holders would have breached the conditions of their permits. APNU has contended that government wanted to exercise greater political control and in the process make the system cumbersome.

For its part, the Alliance For Change (AFC) supports a total review all of the estimated 15,000 gun licences and for the law to be amended to make psychological analyses for all applicants mandatory.