Residents in Abaco expressed serious concerns over the recent sudden appearance of a notice at the Marsh Harbour Police Station indicating firearm license fee increases which are in effect as of November 6, 2013.
The public was caught unaware of the impending hike in fees, which are 300 percent more than the previous charge. The fees for rifles went from $100 to $300; shotguns, formerly $50 are now $150; gun import certificates went up to $150; special license for handguns tripled to $750; the license for firearm dealers is now $750 and the license for an antique firearm is now $300.
According to sources retailers licensed to sell firearms just received the notice of the fee increases last week with the information that the fees were already in effect. One source says that groups of gun owners are already putting together petitions.
He also said that many gun owners are considering turning in their guns to one of the gun retailers for storage if they are unable to pay or have multiple shotguns. “If the government thought this would increase revenues by raising it 300 percent they thought wrong. Less people will license all their guns,” he said.
Another hunter said that this will affect what is in some families a multi-generational tradition of hunting.
Yet others feel that the new fees will result in fewer responsible citizens owning guns while criminals will continue to be well armed with illegal weapons. “Criminals will love that law abiding citizens may have to turn in their guns because they can’t afford the fees. This is crazy; just adds up to more illegal weapons,” one said.
The new fees were mentioned by the government in the House of Assembly in June during the course of the budget debates, but remained unreported likely because raises to Cruising Permits and Aviation Fees took center stage.
Notably, in 2010, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade revealed that there were 15,545 licensed shotguns and 1,565 rifles. He did not provide statistics on the number of handguns. While no official number exists, it is estimated that there could be up to 3,000 such firearms in the country.
Abaco’s Superintendent of Police, Noel Curry said that he expects that the Minister of National Security Bernard Nottage will release an official statement soon on the increases.
Superintendent Curry stated that those unable to afford licensing multiple guns may turn in their unlicensed firearms for safe keeping until such time that they are able to afford to license them.
Other fee increases include Character References (Police Certificate) which were formerly $2.50 are now $3 for residents and $5 for non-Bahamians, and finger print cards which are now $100 for non-Bahamians.