The Desi Bouterse government says it will increase the age limit from 25 to 30 years for people wishing to receive a gun permit and will also raise the tariff from SRD$80 to SRD$2,000 (One Suriname dollar =US$0.13 cents).
“These are drastic increases, especially where it regards the money associated with an application; we understand that much,” said Justice and Police Minister Jennifer Van Dijk-Silos as she defended the measure in the National Assembly.
The Minister speaking during the debate on the amendment of the Arms and Ammunition Act, said that a price increase was necessary because the outdated SRD 80 price no longer covered all costs associated with the application.
She said the price hike would also help government earn much needed income.
“It does not just concern the cost of paper ink and paper, but also salaries, water, energy and other material costs,” the Minister said, adding that the increase in price and age limit would help deter people from wanting to own a firearm.
“We are keeping the age limit for handguns at 30, because that is the age where we consider a person adolescent enough to legally own one,” said Van Dijk-Silos, noting that the age limit for a hunting rifle was kept at 25, simply “because a handgun is drawn much easier and earlier than a hunting rifle”.
She said government also took into consideration the people who hunt and shoot for sport.
The decision to increase the application rates and age limit has been met with support and criticism by members of the National Assembly. Some legislators considered the price hike too steep for people who live in the hinterland and often have to hunt for a living.
They also felt that retired police officers would be placed at a disadvantage if they were to confront criminals whom they had arrested during their careers.
“The role of the police should be optimized to lessen the need citizens may have to own a gun,” said parliamentarian Rosellie Cotino (NDP), pleading for a policy that would deter any type of gun ownership. “The Ministry of Justice and Police should come with a plan so people no longer feel like they have to own a firearm,” said Cotino.
She said a firearm should at all times be considered a last resort for protection, and certainly not the first thing people grab when they feel their safety is at stake. “Gun ownership amongst citizens leads to excesses.”
Several other parliamentarians expressed the concern that an age limit and price hike could prompt more people to own a gun illegally.
Amzad Abdoel said that the new price hike would not be too high for people who hunt for sports, since “if these people can pay the high prices for their guns and bullets, they should be able to pay for a license.”
Chandrikapersad Santokhi, who heads the VHP opposition party, said the government was only introducing the price hike to raise money as it struggles with an ongoing economic crisis. He too expressed fears that the price hike would lead to more illegal gun ownership.
Van Dijk Silos said the new measure will be introduced from January 1, 2018 and that an awareness campaign will be carried out to prepare the community.
She said the government would appoint a committee tasked with advising the Attorney General, who remains the sole authority that can issue, extend and revoke a gun license.
The 10-member committee will be appointed by the President for a period of five years.
- SURINAME | President Desi Bouterse gets 20 years in jail for murder
- BARBADOS | Barbadians Urged To Invest In Guyana & Suriname
- BARBADOS | Barbados And Suriname Sign Economic Technical Agreement
- BARBADOS | Region Must Embrace Technology says Mottley
- SURINAME | Agriculture Sector Critical To This Region