FLA under fire for unclear gun licence revocations
Government Senator Charles Sinclair sought clarity on Tuesday concerning fit-and-proper requirements for licensed firearm holders to maintain their permits, arguing that licences are sometimes revoked by the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) without a clear explanation.
An attorney-at-law, Sinclair said that he is aware of instances in which persons take in their firearms in compliance with annual registration requirements and their permits are held by the FLA on the basis that they are subject to investigation.
However, he said that the individuals are not told, specifically, the reason why their licences have been withheld.
“When the person is submitting their application for a review they are operating in a blind fashion, they don’t have any understanding why it is that their firearm has been revoked,” said Sinclair, while discussing fit-and-proper provisions in the new Firearms (Prohibitions, Restriction and Regulation) Act, 2022. The bill is being reviewed by a joint select committee of Parliament.
“This term is being used and it has been used against persons in a manner that prejudices them immensely,” he said.
Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte pointed out that the legislation sets out the criteria for firearm licence approval.
She argued that the fit-and-proper requirement has to be considered in the context of the qualifying and disqualifying provisions in the statute.
“There is an ongoing duty on the authority and the board to be satisfied that the holder of an authorisation remains fit for the duration of the authorisation,” she added.
However, Sinclair said that he was aware of cases in which the FLA had taken persons’ firearms for more than three years in inconclusive investigations.
He complained that during that time, “the property of the individual is being held by the authority”.
Meanwhile, chairman of the committee, Dr Horace Chang, raised concern about the backlog of appeals before the review board of the FLA.
Chief executive officer of the FLA, Shane Dalling, told the committee that the agency was now reviewing a backlog of appeals dating back to 2020.
“They are meeting more often now. They met twice last week, so they are moving apace to clear the entire backlog,” said Dalling.