Gun owners beware, because the Police Department wants to radically change the regulations governing the sale of licensed ammunition, and the requirements for getting a gun license in the new year.
Commissioner Chester Williams called the gun dealers to the Police Training Academy for what turned out to be a lively meeting. He wants to seriously curtail the amount of ammunition they can sell to any licensed gun owner in a year. Here's how the Commissioner put it:
Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"From the police standpoint, we're trying to see how we can have better control of the sale of ammunitions in the country. Over the past few months, we have doing a study and that study has shown that while many of the guns that are being used to commit crime in Belize are brought in illegally, the study also shows that the ammunitions that being used on crime scenes are locally purchased ammunitions. So what this tells us is that there are a number of licenses firearms holders who are purchasing ammunition and either giving it or selling it to the underworld. Now, they way how the system currently is, a licensed firearm holder can go to each firearm dealer within a day and purchase 100 rounds. So in a day, a licensed firearm holder can purchase over 3000 thousand rounds, a day and there's no control. Now, what the new measure is going to do is that we're not limiting every licensed firearm holder to 200 rounds per annum. So, each licensed firearm holder will only be allowed to have 200 rounds for the whole year. Now we have to take into consideration that some people do go at range and do practice shooting. When they go on the range and the expend those 200 rounds, if they need to have those 200 rounds replenished, they will have to apply to the commissioner of police to replenish those rounds and a requirement will be, that they will have to bring along the 200 expended shells that they use on the range to show that they have expended those rounds on the range."
The new regulations would focus only on 9 millimeter, 380 and and 38 pistols. Shotguns would be exempted.
Commissioner Williams also envisions that gun dealers may open gun ranges - and licensed gun owners would be permitted to use more than their allotted 200 rounds at such a facility.
The are currently over 15 thousand licensed gun owners but - unlike a drivers license - many of them don't know how to use a gun.
Commissioner Williams also wants to change that. He says, starting next year, if you want a license for a gun, you'll have to earn it:
"We want that whenever a person is issued with a firearm license, that person will already have the basic skills as it relates to the use of that firearm. So it is not that after you get the gun, then you go shoot and learn, no. You must have that certification from a certified gun handler that will attach to your application form to show to the commissioner that you are certified in the handle of firearm and then based on that your application will be considered. So, I know that it might not be a popular move for some people what we're trying to do but as I said to the gun dealers, I am not here to be popular, yes what they do is a business, they need to make money. What we do is security, ensuring the community is safe and both parties do have a responsibility in ensuring that we do what is in the best interest of our community and for the most part the gun dealers understand and we are going to see how we can work together to bring this to fruition. We're hoping that, these new measures will come into effect first of January next year and then we see how things work out from there."
And, Williams says government also proposes to reduce gun license fees for security companies by 100%. Those fees were sharply increased by that same 100% at the start of this year.
He says it has actually worked against citizen security:
"With the increase on the security company, they will have to pass that increase on the consumers, which is the store that they are providing security for and then the store will in turn pass that on to the lower consumers but in some cases you find that, due to the increase by the security companies, the little stores cannot afford security anymore, so that store is then left vulnerable. So for us, you cannot be saying to businesses, hire security and on the other hand, you're increasing the fee to make it more difficult for them to hire security. So, I brought the matter to the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security and they both agreed that the fee to be reverted back to what it once was."
Williams also announced that instead of a stamp - which can be easily forged - gun licenses will now have a seal. Again, the changes to go into effect on January first.