Police Commissioner Gary Griffith holds up a can of pepper spray during a TTPS press briefing. (Image: KERWIN PIERRE)
Sascha Wilson

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith is encouraging more women to apply for Firearm Users Licences (FUL) to protect themselves against criminal elements.

His call came yesterday in the wake of public outrage over violence against women, children and the murders of 18-year-old Ashanti Riley and the discovery of the body of missing mother Krystal Primus-Espinoza.

Speaking at a press conference at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain, Griffith said the public outcry had ignited an operational plan to deal with missing persons and violence against women and children.

“I want to inform all women in the country, there is nothing against women having a firearm, a fireman is something that can be an asset for you. There is no need to be fearful of a firearm. Firearms do not kill people, people kill people. A firearm should not be something you feel so sensitive that you feel that you do not want it,” Griffith said. (See editorial on Page 12)

However, the Commissioner said he was concerned that 95 per cent of the applicants were men.

Noting that he has increased the number of firearm licences issued annually from over 200 to 1,500, Griffith said he has been pushing heavily to provide people with their right to bear arms.

“If the state cannot fully protect you and for obvious reasons, we cannot give you the assurance that we can. We are doing all that we can through the Government, through the TTPS and other arms of national security, but it is your right to bear arms. It is your right to defend yourself, it is your right to protect you, your assets your loved ones…,” he said.

“A firearm is not a man thing, a firearm is something that should be used by law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.”

In a subsequent telephone interview, Griffith told Guardian Media that out of the 30,000 firearm licence applicants, just about 3,000 were women.

“So I think basically, it is a mindset to get women to understand that a firearm is an avenue that can be used to protect themselves from criminal elements.”

In the press briefing, he said the applicants should be 50-50 male and female percentage-wise.

He said the recent outcry over the murders of Riley and Primus-Espinoza had forced an action item from the TTPS. This, he said, involves making a recommendation to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi for pepper spray to be legally issued to women.

Similar to the process for a FUL, he said the pepper spray would be registered to each person who owns one.

“What I intend to do as it is a prohibited item, as the Commissioner of Police, I would make a recommendation to the Attorney General to seek approval for it to be made available to women. As Commissioner of Police, I would make a recommendation to the Attorney General to seek approval for me as the Commissioner of Police to have it regulated,” he said.

“So I understand the Prime Minister’s concerns and he is correct, we do not want this to get in the hands of everyone but what I am recommending is that this can be a regulated item where it can be registered to each and everyone who wants to get pepper spray, you have it registered.”

He added that pepper spray saves lives and is non-lethal.

“I have done immense research around the world. Pepper spray has proven to be very instrumental to saving many females from being killed, raped or kidnapped because what it is, it is an avenue of escape. It is not an avenue to hurt or harm anyone.” Following the highly-publicised murders over the past week, he said there is the public perception of a spike in violence against women and missing persons. However, he said there has been a decrease. He said 200 fewer people have been reported missing compared to last year, including a 129 decrease in the number of missing women. Also, out of 745 missing persons this year, there were 411 minors between the age group 15 to 19 and 90 to 95 per cent of the missing persons left on their own and did not want to be found.

However, Griffith assured the police continue to immediately act on all missing person reports using proper protocol and procedures. To assist with information on missing persons, Griffith said the police have reached out to several agencies and would be putting picture boards with the photographs of missing persons at supermarkets and other businesses around the country. He said they would also be posting picture boards on social media platforms and in the newspapers.

He said they have spoken to Massy Stores, TruValue, Xtra Foods and other supermarkets and agencies about putting the picture boards at their establishments. He also encouraged members of the public to download the TTPS app which has an SOS button, as it could make a difference between life and death.

Hitting back at persons who claimed women were being killed while the police were busy dealing with DSS and patrolling the beaches for COVID breaches, Griffith said instead of blaming the police for everything, people should try to work with them. A total of 46 females have been murdered for the year but Griffith said not one family, friend, employee, or neighbour of the women murdered in domestic violence circumstances had gone to the police with solid information. He also said the police would also be putting game-changers in place as it relates to child pornography and prostitution in the coming weeks.

According to the TTPS website, applying for a FUL is a two-step process

Step 1: You must obtain a Provisional License that authorises you to discharge a firearm at a specific shooting range for the purpose of training in the use of the firearm. You can obtain a copy of the Provisional License application form from the Government Printery at the address at the bottom of this page. The form should be completed in accordance with the included instructions and returned, together with the following documents, to the TTPS Firearms Section.

• Two passport-sized photographs of the applicant.

• A Certificate of Character issued by the Commissioner of Police not less than three months prior to the date of application. For information on how to obtain a Certificate of Character click here.

• A specimen of the signature of the person to whom the License is to be issued.

• The Provisional License expires two months from the date of issue. You may apply for a Firearm User’s License once your Provisional License has expired.

Step 2: You can obtain a copy of the Firearm User’s License application form from the Firearms Section of TTPS. The form should be completed in accordance with the included instructions and returned, together with the following documents, to the TTPS Firearms Section.

• Two passport-sized photographs of the applicant.

• A Certificate of Character issued by the Commissioner of Police not less than three months prior to the date of application.

• A specimen of the signature of the person to whom the License is to be issued.

• A Certificate of Competence issued by a licensed firearms instructor.

• There is no application fee.