By Benjamin Fllowers
Amendments to the controversial gun law may come as early as next month, Attorney General Wilfred Elrington said in a recent interview with The Reporter.
According to Elrington, the Offices of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of National Security are reviewing the 2008 amendment to the Firearms Act, which allows for police to detain entire families for unlawful guns and ammunition.
“We are hoping to have some kind of amendment by as early as September,” Elrington said.
He added that the law came under review after concerns were raised at several levels of government, including Cabinet last Tuesday.
Act number six of 2008, the “Firearms Amendment Act, 2008,” at Section 6A reads: “Where any firearm or ammunition is found in or on any premises owned or occupied by more than one person such firearm shall be deemed to be the possession of all such persons.”
The Act continued that it is for the persons of the household to prove that they had no knowledge of the firearm’s presence. Until they can prove this, however, they would be charged and detained until they could go before a magistrate.
That provision, to arrest an entire family was applied on July 7, where 52-year-old Alrick Smith, 47-year-old Sandra Casey, 22-year-old Leon Smith, 19-year-old Tamika Smith, 20-year-old Rashida Brooks and two minors aged 17 and 16, were arrested during a repast for 17-year-old shooting victim Myron Smith.
The arrest inspired several activists and activist groups to speak out against the law’s broad reaching implications. The opposition, People’s United Party, also called for the laws’ review in Cabinet.
Since January, community activist Russell Roberts has been trying to raise public awareness about the dangers of leaving the amendment with such broad reaching powers and no safeguards for the rights of the public.
Roberts had teamed up with Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action in order to rally public support to lobby the government to address the issue.
Media personality Mose Hyde, member of the Rod of Correction movement, had also commented on the Law in July, saying that it is something that needs to be addressed because the law is not serving its intended purpose, while at the same time causing too much collateral damage.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security Ret. Colonel George Lovell explained that the law was passed during a particularly violent time in Belize City. Lovell added that at that time family members of notorious figures knew of concealed firearms and could have prevented serious violent crimes from occurring had they reported it to police.