Acting Commissioner of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith has responded to his predecessor Stephen Williams, who criticised his statement that citizens have the right to be armed.

A war of words erupted between the two after Williams said individuals being permitted to legally own more than three firearms is “raw crazi­ness.”

In response, Griffith said citizens have the right to apply and own a firearm.

In a subsequent interview on I95FM, Williams said: “I hear the acting Commissioner continuously saying that citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have the right to be armed. He’s ignorant of the portfolio and he’s a narcissistic type person… He listens to absolutely no one and once you speak, he attacks.”

According to an article in the Trinidad Newsday, President of the Law Association Sophia Chote agreed with Williams that the Constitution does not give citizens the right to bear arms.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Griffith said he has noted the “desperate” attempt by some to allude that he stated that every citizen has a right to be issued a firearm.

He clarified: “My statement was clear. I stated and wish to reemphasise that every citizen has a right to apply for a firearm and should be eligible if they adhere to all the criteria stipulated, and not ignored or rejected because of the personal view of any public official.”

Griffith added: “If they do adhere to all requirements and become eligible, then no individual, including a Police Commissioner, must take it upon himself to snub the application of those who applied and ignore or disregard it, based on his personal view that persons should not have firearms.”

The acting commissioner said a responsible and professional commissioner should not use his personal view to ignore the rights of citizens.

This, he said, is totally different from saying someone has a right to bear arms.

“In fact, it is because of personal views of some, that has caused the backlog of tens of thousands of applicants over the last decade, waiting to even be given a response in relation to their application to acquire a firearm,” Griffith added.

The acting Top Cop said what is also concerning is the silence of the business groups on the issue.

He said: “What I also find alarming, is that for three years, almost every Business Association in every corner of the country, several Farmers’ Associations, Welfare Associations of Law Enforcement bodies, and the tens of thousands of other small, middle and large business owners who have bombarded me on a daily basis, to have firearms applications addressed because of their desperate need to acquire same based on serious concerns, have all gone silent on this matter and not said a word.”

“It is apparent that perhaps they prefer to communicate in confidence by sending hundreds of requests daily for firearms application licenses to be considered, but now, as it is time to explain the importance and justification for these firearms to be issued, they appear to prefer to stay silent,” he ended.

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