Senator Deyalsingh: Don’t raise fees to discourage gun-licence applicants

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh.

Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh is urging the government to carefully discuss its stance on allowing firearms users licence (FUL) applications and avoid raising fees to dissuade applicants.

Deyalsingh spoke in debate on the Finance Bill in the Senate on Tuesday. He noted the increase in fees for FULs, gunsmith licences, firearms dealers’ licences and firearms disposal licences.

He said an increase in administrative fees over time was necessary to generate revenue, but should not be used to discourage people from applying for FULs.

He stressed that many people felt a need to better defend themselves against crime and urged the government to consider the value of FULs.

“We are dealing in some dangerous times with home invasions – we see individuals coming into the home now where eight well-armed, very fit people – some instances have shown members of the army involved in these robberies that occur, and these individuals are armed to the teeth coming into our homes.

“Increasing the fees for the licence to get revenue is one thing. But trying to look at getting an increase in fees or change the mindset of people wanting to apply for firearms is another. I know the government is under discussion with this and I want to beg to move that persons out there would have found that somehow they would have rather been given a chance to defend themselves.”

Referring to instances in which legitimate businessmen were forced to close their businesses after being threatened and extorted by criminals, Deyalsingh said the perception of many people was that only a privileged class was allowed to own legal firearms.

He said he felt adequate measures were in place to prevent misuse of firearms by FUL holders, and questioned the government’s hesitance in issuing the permits.

“I’m honestly trying to figure out what is government’s hesitance with giving people firearms.

“It’s just like a car: if I have a licence I can buy five cars. We have better checks and balances than the USA and other countries. There are things in place.

“So I’m thinking and I’m hoping the government will realise that once people have those checks and balances, it is enough, because even trained policemen can have accidental discharges (of guns).”

Deyalsingh added that most people who wanted FULs were not advocating violence, but only wanted an additional measure to protect themselves and relatives from criminals.