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Cabinet approves firearms and ammunition control board amid concerns of gun license corruption

Posted: Sunday, July 9, 2023. 6:41 pm CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: This week, Cabinet announced the approval of a Firearms and Ammunition Control Board in a bid to address escalating concerns about corruption within the gun licensing process, particularly in the Police Department. The newly-formed board will replace the current system wherein the Police Commissioner holds final authority on gun license applications.

The move follows allegations of a black market for gun licenses in Belize, where individuals, including those with criminal records, were reportedly able to quickly acquire gun licenses through under-the-table payments to certain members of the Police Department.

High-profile figures such as Marybeth Wade, girlfriend of the deceased gang member “Tanga,” were alleged to have received gun licenses, according to a 7News report. Belize’s Police Commissioner, Chester Williams, has emphatically denied any involvement in the illicit gun license trade, pointing fingers instead at rogue elements within the Police Department.

In a shift of responsibility, the Firearms and Ammunition Control Board will take control of the entire licensing process. The board is tasked with implementing new regulations and criteria for the approval of firearm licenses, which will now include “training and certification of license holders.”

Additionally, the board will spearhead the digitization of the firearm and ammunition licensing system, replacing the antiquated manual system still employed by the Belize Police Department.

While welcomed by many, the establishment of the board has not been without its critics. Commissioner Williams, despite denying involvement in the alleged license corruption, expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the board. He suggested that no system is completely foolproof, citing issues with gun licenses even in countries with established licensing boards, like Jamaica.

“There is nothing in life that is foolproof,” said Commissioner Williams. “Even if the gun licenses were now managed by a board, would you feel that it would make a difference? Jamaica went to a board, and even in Jamaica gun licenses are being issued to persons that are not supposed to get gun licenses, and the police are having issues with that. So, no matter what we do, it’s going to be a perennial problem that we have to deal with as a society.”

Despite these reservations, the decision to establish the Firearms and Ammunition Control Board now awaits the passing of requisite legislation in Parliament to become operational. The government hopes this move will stem the tide of corruption, provide transparency, and increase safety in Belize.


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