There are over 34,000 pending applications for firearm user’s licenses (FULs) before the Commissioner of Police, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds has said.
He made the disclosure while speaking in the Senate in the early hours of yesterday, as the debate on the Firearms Amendment Bill (2022) was wrapping up.
“There are over 34,000 applications for firearms in front of the Police Service and that is in addition to the licenses which exist, which are on the books in Trinidad and Tobago in the region of 25,000,” Hinds said.
Hinds was responding to submissions by Independent Senator Anthony Vieira on the number of FULs granted in some other countries.
Hinds said while there are about 25,000 active licenses, variations granted over the last several years to FUL holders mean the number of legally issued firearms was much higher.
“Those are licenses, but I can tell you with the recent madness with respect to variations, where some people have 40 weapons, 30 weapons, 36, 14, you just call any number, you are talking about thousands of legal firearms, so when I hear what about the ordinary man, I could talk a lot about ordinary men and women,” Hinds said.
As he continued to wrap up the debate on why the Prison Commissioner should be granted authority to allow prison officers to keep and carry their State-issued firearms, Hinds turned to jabs made against him by Opposition Senators earlier in the day.
Several months ago, Hinds was accused of sending messages to former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, asking Griffith to check on FUL applications for members of his security detail.
The allegations were made against Hinds during a Joint Select Committee meeting by Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr Roodal Moonilal.
At that time, Hinds denied sending any messages to Griffith of that nature.
However, on Wednesday morning, he had a different story.
“I asked the then-Commissioner to look into those applications which were already made, I did that,” Hinds said.
He said he knew at the time that the discretion to grant or refuse to grant a FUL lay solely with the Commissioner of Police.
Recalling being questioned by Moonilal during the JSC, Hinds said, “The message he (Moonilal) read to us in the committee now having his phone, suggested to me that it was a message I sent to a former Commissioner of Police and who like a wimp, an untrustworthy wimp, would share that with him.”
In a release yesterday from Griffith’s National Transformation Alliance (NTA), the party’s general secretary Tim Teemal said Hinds’ statements highlight the Government’s overreach and interference.
The release said after the CoP merit list fiasco with the former head of the Police Service Commission, Bliss Seepersad, and two years of “constant attacks” on Griffith’s character, “citizens are forced to conclude that the reason for the ‘Get Gary’ campaign was to have the final political say in who gets and keeps legal firearms.”