Commissioner of Police (Ag), Gary Griffith

Commissioner of Police (Ag), Gary Griffith, says over the past three years some 5,000 Firearm User Licenses (FULs) have been issued, and none of those licensed firearms has been use in the commission of a crime or murder.

In an official statement on the matter, the top cop also addressed the issues of FUL holders keeping their weapons on their person, as well as incidents of negligent discharges of their weapons.

He also offered advise on best practices to be adopted.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by Commissioner Griffith…

There is the unfounded perception that because there has been an increase in the issue of firearms, it can cause a negative impact in our country, amounting to the loss of weapons due to negligence, issued weapons being stolen, as well as being used to commit crimes and even murder as seen in some countries.

Commissioner of Police (Ag), Gary Griffith wishes to advise that prior to 2018, only 400-odd firearms were issued annually compared to the demand for over 50,000 applying for such. Even though 5,000 have been issued in the last three years, and because of a number of intense policies to ensure that weapons are issued to responsible citizens, the following, based on our statistics and data, has materialized from the issue of these 5,000 weapons to law-abiding citizens:

●   Number of such firearms stolen due to negligence – 0

●   Number of such firearms misplaced or lost due to negligence – 0

●   Number of such firearms used to commit a crime – 0

●   Number of such firearms used to commit a murder – 0

This increase in the number of permits issued by the TTPS as compared to previous years, as well as greatly minimizing criminal acts due to such weapons being issued was possible as a result of the restructuring of the management process by which FULs were granted to qualified citizens via:

●   The creation of an Investigative Unit operating alongside the Firearms Permit Unit whose responsibility it is to aggressively treat with the current backlog of files to be investigated at the Unit.

●   The operationalization of the Firearms Compliance Unit whose mandate includes conducting sensitive investigative functions as well as compliance-related duties in accordance with the Firearms Act Chapter 16:01 and the Explosives Act 16:02.

●   The Unit is also responsible for the comprehensive vetting of all FUL applicants, with the aim of placing legal firearms only in the hands of responsible and duly qualified applicants.

It is to be noted that compared to some other countries, Trinidad and Tobago FUL holders are not involved in the commission of a crime with the firearms issued to them. There is a common misconception that legal firearms in Trinidad and Tobago have become just as accessible to citizens when compared to accessibility rates of other countries, including the US.

However, the firearm application process in Trinidad and Tobago is a stringent one which ensures that the firearm is not used by the applicant for the wrong purpose.

The process in the US varies from State to State, wherein some States there is no requirement for background checks to be carried out by gun dealers. In Trinidad and Tobago however, the applicant is subjected to investigation by the Divisional investigator or a member of the Investigative Unit; in addition to being vetted by members of the Firearms Compliance Unit.

However, whilst in no way drawing reference to certain previous incidents of negligent discharges of firearms, what needs to improve, involves soon to-be mandatory policies for FUL holders to minimize the possibility of a negligent discharge and weapons being stolen.

In recent times, the Acting CoP has observed that FUL holders are taking their firearms around with them on occasions where loss or theft is possible.

FUL holders are reminded of security measures available to them such as utilizing their safes at home or lodging their firearms at their district Police Station.

Measures such as these are options available to FUL holders to prevent instances of firearms being lost or stolen where persons lock their firearms in vehicles when going out to jog or to a beach or take their firearms with them when they intend to consume alcohol.

The Acting CoP has also observed the recent upsurge in the number of negligent discharges, inclusive of members of the Protective Services, with injury to persons also taking place.

The following are some simple steps that can be taken by FUL holders to prevent a negligent discharge:

●   The Acting Commissioner advises that there is no need to chamber a round in your firearm when carrying it around during their day-to-day activities.

●   There is also no need for a firearm to be “cocked” at all times but rather this process ought to take place when the firearm is being withdrawn from its holster in preparation to be fired or cleared.

●   FUL holders must reacquaint themselves with the adage taught to them in the first stages of weapon handling—ALWAYS point the weapon in a safe direction.

In an effort to prevent further instances of negligent discharges, the Acting CoP intends to institute another stipulation in the acquisition of FULs mandatory annual refresher/retraining courses to be undertaken by all FUL holders at approved firearm training ranges. This training would include, but would not be limited to:

●   Target practice

●   Safe weapon handling drills

●   Weapon cleaning and maintenance