It is illegal to take an “offensive weapon”, including a licensed gun, to a public meeting, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says, citing the law.
“I understand that some people feel — and I am not commenting on any particular case — that if you have a licensed firearm it is perfectly in order for you to attend a meeting, a gathering, with a licensed firearm,” Gonsalves, who is a lawyer and Minister of National Security, told a press conference on Thursday.
He quoted section 14 of the Public Order Act, which speaks to prohibition of offensive weapons at public meetings and processions.
Gonsalves noted that under the law, a “public meeting” refers to persons gathered in a public place for a similar purpose.
The law says any person who while present at any public meeting has with him an offensive weapon otherwise than in pursuit of lawful authority is guilty of an offence.”
“Well, you may say that if you have a licensed firearm that is your lawful authority. Well, the law longstops you and say don’t go so fast. Law is right reason, you know; at least 99.9 per cent of the time. Occasionally, the law may be an a-s-s, but the law is basically right reason,” Gonsalves said.
He added that the law says that for the purposes of the section cited, a person shall not be deemed to be acting in pursuance of lawful authority unless he is acting in his capacity as a servant of the Crown or of a local authority or any police officer or a member of any recognised corps or as a member of a fire brigade.
“For example, you are not a servant of the crown if you are an ordinary person going about your business or a successful or defeated candidate for that matter, in an election,” Gonsalves said.
“It is prohibited, and that carries a term of imprisonment of three months and $2,000 fine,” he told reporters.
“I don’t want, in any way, to throw any cold water on anybody protesting, because I understand protest,” said Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party came to office in March 2001 on the back of public protest months earlier.
“But just know that there is a legal framework. Know your boundaries, stay within them and if you are taking liberties with the boundaries and the police pull you up, abide by what the police is telling you or suffer the consequences if the police decide to take action under the law,” he said.