Acting Police Commissioner Gary Griffith hit back at his predecessor Stephen Williams on Wednesday, accusing the latter of granting firearm user's licences (FULs) to a "select few" while leaving many others defenceless.
In a newspaper article on August 21, Williams was critical of Griffith's approach to granting FULs and described the trend of people owning up to three guns as "raw madness."
At the weekly police media briefing at Sackville Street, Port of Spain, on Wednesday, Griffith cited figures on the number of FULs issued before he assumed office in 2018, asserting that 45 people were allowed to own three different guns each during Williams' tenure.
Griffith argued that during his tenure he granted FULs to applicants of different ethnicities and economic standings once they met the criteria.
"From what I am seeing in the records, what happened in the past was that firearms were only given to the rich and famous, and it was not being given to the average citizen. And it's because of this irresponsible behaviour I inherited a backlog of over 50,000 people applying for firearms (user's licences).
"What I have done is, unlike them, where most of those people might have been the rich and famous – because only a certain elite few would be given firearms – I ensured every single citizen has a right (to have one).
"Once you apply and adhere to the requirements I shouldn't take it upon myself to stop you. I have opened the playing field whereby hundreds of people – over 99 per cent of the FULs I have issued are not for the rich and famous. They were issued for small businessmen, farmers...hundreds of law-enforcement officers, active and retired."
He also said while he continues to assist different associations and advocacy groups with FULs for their members, he took note that they were silent while he faced criticism over his stance on firearm permits.
"As a servant of this country, I adhere to what has been demanded, and all of them, just like St Peter, have said and done nothing and allowed me to carry my cross. And I will do so, because I am not here looking for friends and I do not need support."
Griffith also praised former police commissioner Hilton Guy, who he said was personally opposed to civilians owning firearms, but did not allow his personal opinions to sway his judgement as a commissioner.
He said contrary to some reports, FULs were not granted for automatic weapons.