Gun license decree deviates from advice public prosecutor and police

POSTED: 03/11/11 4:52 PM

St. Maarten – The ministerial decree that regulates the conditions for gun licenses and ammunition deviates on critical points from the advice Justice Minister Roland Duncan received from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the police. The discrepancies between the advice and the text of the decree went unnoticed by parliamentarians during Wednesday’s central committee meeting.
While the Minister wrote in the explanatory notes that his decree is “for the major part” based on the advice, the actual text of these documents reveal the hidden meaning of at least one expression in the decree.
The decree mentions general conditions “under which a license can be granted to have a firearm and ammunition at one’s disposal.”
But having a firearm at one’s disposal means in the view of Chief Public Prosecutor Mr. Hans Mos that licensed gun owners are allowed to carry their weapon “24/7, also on public roads and in public buildings.”
In his advice to Minister Duncan, dated February 9, Mos writes: “Recently it has been established that a license-holder (baseball legend Hamilton Richardson – ed.) was present in the courtroom during a criminal trial! Especially carrying a gun in the public domain is perilous in the opinion of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Even if somebody is a good marksman, carrying a firearm creates the possibility to use it in the public domain. Considering the lack of a training facility for such conditions, it is truly perilous to send license-holders with a gun onto the streets.”
Allowing licensed gun-owners to carry their weapon around the clock also puts the requirement of having a weapons safe into question. Mos points out in his advice that the safe-requirement is taken from the Aruban firearm policy. But in Aruba, the policy specifically focuses on shooting associations and its members. The members are not allowed to have their weapons at their disposal, Mos writes. “They were only allowed to transport their weapons to and from the shooting association. Now that you apparently choose to create the possibility to have a firearm 24/7 at one’s disposal, having a safe, no matter how well-intended it may be, is not understandable. When and where does the weapon have to be in the safe if people are allowed to have it 24/7 at their disposal?”
The Chief Prosecutor suggested to limit the licenses, and to give permits only for having a gun in one’s house or on one’s property. “That places having a vault also in the correct perspective.”
In general, Mos urged the minister to reconsider his plans for a more liberal gun policy. “I am extremely concerned that after the introduction of the policy gun violence in this country will increase instead of decrease.”
Another point where Minister Duncan opted to deviate from law enforcement’s advice is the age restriction. In the explanatory notes, the Minister writes that a license will be refused to applicants who have not reached the age of 18.
Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte advised in a letter dated January 6 to maintain a minimum age of 21.
De Witte noted that the minister had indicated in an email dated December 28, 2010, that he intended “to grant permits to businessmen, leaders of institutions and certain (senior and for that purpose identified) civil servants.”
On Wednesday, the minister indicated that he had dropped the idea of limiting the licenses to certain groups.
De Witte informed the minister that the police force is ready to develop a training program that applicants will have to follow obligatory. “The training will consist of one morning theory, and one afternoon practice on the shooting range.”
The police force will need two full-timers to plan and supervise the training program. De Witte demands that these two full-timers are added as extras to the force’s strength. to With the current number of licenses (111) the training center would have to handle 440 shooting exercise and shooting tests per year, based on the minimum requirement of three annual shooting exercises and one test. In the meantime, the minister has indicated that there are 30 new applications in the pipeline. This lifts the total number of trainings and tests from 440 to 560.
The police have calculated the costs of the training program and the shooting exercises at 156 guilders per hour. This means that, with the current number of issued and pending licenses, the program will cost close to 700,000 guilders, or around $390,000. These costs will have to be brought up by the license-holders.
The Chief Commissioner claimed control over the registration of gun licenses. The force also wants to take responsibility for shooting skill certificates, shooting practices and their results. Based on the shooting results and the test the police will advise the minister about extending or withdrawing licenses.
De Witte added extracts from the Weapons Ordinance of 1967 and the Firearms Ordinance of 1930 to his advice. Remarkably, the Minister writes in his draft decree that “all provisions of the above mentioned legal regulations remain in force unimpaired.
That puts the decree at odds with the Weapons Ordinance, because this contains a ban on carrying a weapon “on the public road or at any publicly accessible place.”
De Witte points in his advice to an article in the Firearms Ordinance that states: “It is possible to set conditions for the license. It will only be issued insofar some reasonable interest requires this, and there is no reason to fear abuse of the license or the firearm.”
After analyzing the existing legislation, Chief Commissioner concluded, “We find no grounds that justify the use of a firearm against other people by license-holders.”
De Witte refers to the principle of proportionality and subsidiarity – a point the minister has taken up in the explanatory notes, where he points out that the state has the monopoly on the use of violence. “Having a firearm license is not a justification for using it against other people,” the notes read. “In case of self defense the judge will evaluate whether the violence and the level of violence was permissible.”
The proportionality principle holds that violence used for self defense must be proportionate to the threat. The subsidiarity principle holds that higher authorities should not intervene in matters that can be dealt with by lower authorities.

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