OCC: Police can alter firearms applications

According
to a March decision by the Cayman Islands Complaints Commissioner, Cayman’s top
cop can make unilateral changes to firearms applications forms.

Those
are the documents that must be filled out and renewed by all licensed gun
owners on the Islands.

Police
changes to firearms applications, importation and renewal forms were disputed
by a local resident who claimed in a letter to Complaints Commissioner Nicola
Williams that the police commissioner was allowing firearms applications forms
to be published that “please(d) him instead of the law”.

According
to firearms applications forms reviewed by the Caymanian Compass, there have
been several changes to the initial application document set forth in the
Firearms Regulations (1999 Revision).

In
forms published last year on the RCIPS web site, there were several
requirements for firearms applicants that are not set out in the regulations.
Those include seeking two letters of reference from “prominent persons in the
community (e.g. doctors, lawyers, MLAs)”, a letter from the Agriculture Department
if the weapon is to be used for hunting, and supporting documentation from the
Cayman Islands Gun Club if the gun owner is a member.

None
of these requirements are set out in the 1999 regulations.

Also
on the newer forms, applications are required to declare that they have not
been convicted of a criminal offence “anywhere in the world at anytime”. They
also agree to give RCIPS officers the right to inspect at anytime the safe
where a weapon must be kept.

These
declarations are also not required in the 1999 version of the application forms
contained in the regulations attached to the current law.

At
issue in the complaint was whether the legal authority fell to the police
commissioner, the governor or the Cabinet to change regulations in the Firearms
Law.

That
law (2008 revision) states: “The governor may make regulations for the better
carrying out of this law and, in particular…for prescribing anything required
or permitted by this law to be prescribed.”

According
to definitions given in the law, “governor” means the “governor in Cabinet” or
all members of that body, not the governor acting in his sole discretion.

Commissioner
Williams noted that the current law was a bit unclear with regard to firearms
applications forms.

“It
would appear that the appropriate authority would be either the governor or the
police commissioner, perhaps devolved down from the former to the latter,” she
wrote in a letter dated 9 March, 2010.

By
allowing the forms to be changed without altering the regulations in the law,
Ms Williams stated that the police commissioner had not “ignored his duty of
care to the public” as the initial complaint in the case had claimed.

“These
requirements [in the firearms application], whilst arguably more restrictive on
gun users/owners, put in place better safeguards for members of the public,” Ms
Williams wrote. “[If] there is a concurrent duty of care to gun owners/users
that must be considered, then this has to be weighed against the duty of care
to the general public.”

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