UNC says no to proposed Firearms Act

Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein. - File photo
Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein. - File photo

BARATARIA/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein has said the government should "throw the proposed amended Firearms Act in the dustbin," because it will only benefit illegal gun owners.

Speaking at a UNC town meeting on May 6 at the Brazil High School in Brazil for the La Horquetta/Talparo constituency, Hosein said the government is “exposing people to risk.”

Hosein questioned the need for proposed safe zones, saying, “Criminals will know where people are unarmed. What they're doing is increasing the risk of robbery, because criminals will know people's firearms are either at home or in a police station.”

He asked where licensed firearm holders will secure their weapons in cases of trips to the bank, where they might be withdrawing large sums of cash, and in times of emergencies, citing school.

“A businessman going to the bank, where is he keeping his gun? Your child got beaten up in school – and we all know what’s taking place with violence in school. You can’t go to school because you have to go home or to a police station before you can treat the emergency?”

He believes the Government is cracking down on legal gun ownership and allowing illegal guns to “run rampant.” Hosein said owning a firearm makes no sense if the act is passed and Hosein said the government is trying to “water down gun ownership” through the proposed act.

He then focused on places of worship, saying worshippers leaving them at night will also be targeted, as “bandits will know they are unarmed.”

He doubled down on his claims that the Government is exposing citizens to risk, and spoke about the 2022 shooting near Rose Hill RC Primary School in Laventille.

When that incident occurred, videos of students and teachers inside classrooms hiding under desks were circulated on social media and teachers could be heard telling students to take cover as the gunfire raged.

“Was it a legal firearm being used during that incident? Where are the policies to get the illegal firearms off the street? The issue is illegal gun ownership.”

Hosein also targeted the proposed Firearm Licensing Board, which limits the Commissioner of Police's (CoP) authority in issuing licences, and asked

if the board’s creation was politically motivated.

“Who do you think they are going to put on the board? They will put PNM operatives to grant licences.”

Hosein said the Opposition will "stand its ground" and not support the bill. He said the act limits the office of the commissioner and exposes people to additional risk, calling it a "recipe for disaster."

In a phone interview with Newsday on Tuesday, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said he agrees with opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who spoke at Monday’s town meeting.

He said the act is going after innocent, law-abiding citizens who have or wish to have legal firearms.

“The UNC is not going to give any support to the Government on this matter. This is yet another attack on legal firearm owners.”

He said the Government has been on a “persistent campaign to remove legal firearms from the hands of innocent citizens, while little is done to prevent the importation of illegal firearms."

Moonilal believes the Government should be doing more to ensure law-abiding citizens can access weapons to protect themselves.

“I'm concerned about this notion of 'safe zones.' What the government is doing is creating free zones for bandits. That is a very frightening development, it is something we must object to strenuously.”

Moonilal acknowledged the current system has challenges, but does not believe the changes will have any positive impact.

“Removing legal firearms from the hands of innocent citizens and preventing them from defending their property and their families is not the correct approach.”

He said the Government should instead focus on strengthening laws to ensure “innocent citizens” can qualify and obtain weapons to defend themselves. Given the state of crime and the police's inability to defend citizens, Moonilal said, the introduction of a firearms licence board is another avenue for “widespread political corruption, favouritism and nepotism.”

He believes the Government should revise the law to allow the CoP a stronger framework and a more efficient system to grant law-abiding citizens firearm user's licences, rather than limiting the CoP.

Newsday tried contacting CoP Erla Harewood-Christopher and police PRO Joanne Archie for comments but was unsuccessful.


"UNC says no to proposed Firearms Act"

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