By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporte
A MEMBER of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) yesterday called on the Christie administration to “fast-track” the issuance of gun licences to “upstanding citizens who have no criminal records” so that they will not be “left defenceless and at the mercy of violent criminals”.
DNA Business Alliance President Ben Albury, in a statement, lamented the recent wave of murders in the capital, charging that while “armed criminals roam the streets”, gun licence applicants who have met all the requirements and have “clean background checks” cannot have their licences approved in a timely fashion.
This, Mr Albury said, suggests that “innocent Bahamians” are being “punished because of the actions of criminals,” as he charged that “properly licenced firearms have not been in any way responsible for the gum crime that has destroyed so many lives and families”.
Under current law, persons may apply to the commissioner of police for shotgun and rifle licences for hunting. In some cases, handgun licences may be granted but are more difficult to obtain.
Meanwhile, Free National Movement (FNM) candidate for Long Island Adrian Gibson called for the country to consider a Right-To-Carry law, charging in a Facebook post this week that life in The Bahamas “should not amount to an existence of fear or constant, tedious vigilance of one’s surroundings at all times”.
Mr Gibson also said that as an owner of a licenced firearm, it “sends shivers down my spine” to know that a shotgun has become “almost obsolete as a protective measure for businessmen and homeowners” when compared to AK-47s and “other powerful weapons that have no limitations” that are carried by the “criminal element”.
The statements came after a bloody weekend of killing, which continued into this week. There have been 14 murders this month and 28 so far this year, according to The Tribune’s records.
Yesterday, Mr Albury referred to an alleged “severe backlog” of new gun licence approvals, which has resulted in “literally hundreds of upstanding citizens” having to wait “up to three years with no word from the Commissioner of Police”.
He said: “Responsible citizens have every right to defend themselves and should be allowed to apply for a firearm on the basis of home protection and receive a prompt response from the authorities. It is not right that innocent Bahamians are punished because of the actions of criminals. We must do away with this myth that guns are only for hunting. Responsible citizens have every right to defend themselves and should be allowed to apply for a firearm on the basis of home protection and receive a prompt response from the authorities.
“Where gun safety education is needed, it should be provided, but free and upstanding members of this society cannot continue to have their rights trampled and be left defenceless and at the mercy of violent criminals.”
He added: “We right-thinking Bahamians applaud and appreciate the courageous work of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), but they cannot be everywhere at once. The country’s record of murders, armed robberies and home invasions are testament to this fact.
“The time has come for the Bahamas to respect the rights of citizens to defend themselves and their families.”
Mr Albury also lamented the annual licence fees for legal firearms, which he claimed has “skyrocketed” by “200 per cent without any warning or explanation”. He said this increase has made the cost for gun licences “prohibitive” for “regular citizens who want the peace of mind of knowing that they will be able to protect their home and family if the worst ever happens.”
He added: “Upstanding citizens are, quite understandably, living in extreme fear for their safety and many feel helpless and at risk of a possible invasion of their home or business at any time. While armed criminals roam the streets, responsible citizens who happen to be firearm owners, continue to be discriminated against in the Bahamas.”
Meanwhile, Mr Gibson said the country should consider adopting a Right-To-Carry law, where applicants who meet “prescribed criteria”, including psychological examinations, are issued permits to carry concealed handguns.
“The (Inter-American Development Bank) has patently told us that the Bahamas is now classified as one of the most violent countries in the world. We no longer need to pretend our police officers shouldn’t be adequately armed or that responsible citizens shouldn’t have the option of protecting themselves.
“Accountable, law abiding community leaders, businessmen and persons of that ilk should, if they apply for them, be allowed to carry a handgun. Heck, if they could have a shotgun or rifle, why not a handgun? The criminals have armed themselves to the teeth and rather than using BB guns and slingshots, they are using military grade, high-powered weapons.”