Acting Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has fired back at critics of his approach to issuing firearms users' licences (FULs), contending that law-abiding citizens, once granted a licence were entitled to adequate protection.
On Sunday a newspaper report quoted former acting police commissioner Stephen Williams, who was critical of Griffith for allowing people to own up to four guns.
The report quoted Williams as calling people owning that many guns as "raw craziness" and such allowances counterproductive, saying, "As an individual in an environment where you are trying to restrict the presence of firearms in the country, it is illogical, it is unreasonable and it clearly cannot be justified by any commissioner."
At a police media conference on Monday, Griffith knocked Williams and accused him of taking a more relaxed approach to citizens' safety during his tenure.
Griffith said Williams had allowed his personal opinion on gun ownership to influence his duties as commissioner.
He argued, "No commissioner of police has a right to state it is their personal view as to if people should have firearms or not. Any commissioner of police that makes that statement shows he is clueless.
"There is a law, and any commissioner of previous commissioner who makes such comments means he does not understand his responsibility, if there is a law that gives law-abiding citizens the right to apply and own a firearm.
"It is (because of) the slackness that took place prior to my watch, where people were not being given their right to bear arms and defend themselves, that there was a backlog of over 50,000 (FUL applications) I had to deal with, because one individual decided to play God to say, 'I don't think people should have firearms.'"
Asked what the criteria were to allow someone to own up to three guns, Griffith said the FULs could be granted depending on what the weapons were used for, such as sport-shooting, personal protection or hunting.
"Someone may be a businessman so he wants a small arm, but then after he goes to a different department where he wants another firearm for sport (shooting).
"The individual may be using it for sport; some may be using their weapon for hunting, so they require shotguns."
Griffith said contrary to the report, there were robust systems in place during and after the application process to ensure people were competent and responsible enough to own weapons.
He said the police would continue to enforce mandatory training for legal firearm owners as it was required of them to continue owning a weapon.
"It is there in law, and I intend to enforce it, where every single person who has a firearm must go to an established range, where you will be monitored and trained on how to use your firearm and use it to have it clear and safe."
Also attending the conference were firearms experts Paul Nahous and retired Major Dirk Barnes, who also responded to the concerns raised in the report.
Nahous, a security consultant and qualified sniper instructor, said contrary to the article, 5.56 mm ammunition was a category of bullets used in sport shooting.
He also said that people could be issued more than 30 rounds of ammunition, depending on the dangers they faced, saying certain amounts of ammunition may not be enough to fend off multiple attackers.