George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin
advocated for gun ownership for self-defence purposes in the Legislative
Assembly last week.
His comments came during debate on
a Private Member’s Motion put forward by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller. The
motion asked the government to consider amending the Firearms Law to establish
a committee that includes two justices of the peace and the police commissioner
to deal with applications for gun licences. Currently only the police commissioner
decides whether a gun licence is issued.
Mr. McLaughlin said he was not
advocating for everyone to have the right to bear arms, but he did say he was
concerned that the decision on who was granted a gun licence was vested with
only the police commissioner.
Although Mr. Miller’s motion only
addressed the situation where some Caymanians are being denied gun licences for
shotguns used to hunt rabbits and ducks, Mr. McLaughlin brought the subject of
self-defence into the debate.
“I see no reason… why someone who
wants to own a firearm for his or her protection in their own home should have
to go through hoops, and in many cases be denied the right to own a firearm,”
“With the situation that we have
now, those who don’t apply… are the ones who wield firearms at will.”
Mr. McLaughlin was referring to the
increased amount of gun crime with illegal firearms in recent times.
It is unclear whether the George
Town legislator was advocating the right to own a gun for self-defence only for
Caymanians or for the wider population.
The motion was also supported by
Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden, who spoke fondly of a named gun “Old Betsy”, and
East End MLA Arden McLean, who seconded the motion.
“I do not advocate the right to
bear arms,” said Mr. McLean, “but I do advocate the right to own arms for
In introducing the motion, Mr.
Miller said he had received recent representation from farmers and others in
the community who were experiencing difficulty for their children to get
licences for guns that have been in the family for many years. He said guns were needed to control gardening
pests such as the agouti, also known as Cayman rabbit.
“Agouti can quite easily destroy
ground provisions, in particular, at an alarming rate,” he said.
He dismissed the idea that rabbits
could be killed by poison, and he told of a comment made to him by someone who
heard a previous police commissioner suggest at a public meeting that they
could be killed that way.
“How can he be the chief of police
if he don’t know I can’t eat rabbit after I poison it,” Mr. Miller said the man
told him, getting a laugh from the other legislators.
Mr. Miller said that adding two
Caymanian justices of the peace to a committee that decided on gun licence
applications would give a “certain comfort that the deliberations were fair”
even if the applications were denied.
Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks
responded on behalf of the government, saying that in the 20 months ending in
January 2010, 97 per cent of all applications were successful resulting in the
issuance of 55 gun licences.
“It appears to me, based on those
statistics, if three per cent of the applicants are not successful, it would
suggest, at least in my view – in the government’s view – there isn’t a need to
address the regime for the issuance of gun licences.”
Mr. Ebanks also said that there was
already a mechanism in the law that allowed for decisions of the police
commissioner with relation to gun licence applications to be appealed to the
Governor in Cabinet.
“Unfortunately, the government is
unable to accept the motion,” he concluded.
Leader of the Opposition Kurt
Tibbetts said he would be interested to know if the 55 licences issued
represented new grants or renewals.
Regardless, he said, “statistics
don’t change the intent of the motion having a valid rationale behind it.”
Mr. Tibbetts also wondered if
anyone had ever appealed a decision to deny an application for a gun licence
because he couldn’t recall ever hearing of one. He suggested that there could
be many people who had been denied gun licences in the past, who never bothered
to appeal because they thought the appeal would not have been successful.
The motion was defeated eight votes
to six, with all five members of the Opposition and Mr. Miller voting in favour
of it. Government minister Rolston
Anglin was absent from the chamber when the vote was taken.