This morning’s edition of TVAM (Wednesday 20 May 2020) included a feature on the ‘alarming’ number of firearms registered with the Police. The service started at 08:10 and mainly consisted of an interview with criminologist John Ellul.

The feature missed the wood for the trees, as is usually the case when the persons involved are not suitably informed, with the result that it must have alarmed viewers rather than educating them. The least that the presenters could have done is seek our expertise, which would have resulted in an accurate and balanced view.

As may be expected, the feature focused on legally registered firearms in the hands of licensed persons, when it has been demonstrated time and again that firearms used in crime are predominantly unlicensed ones. The presenter and interviewee missed the most salient point of our robust arms legislation: persons who seek to acquire a firearms licence must go through three levels of screening. Mr. Ellul did mention effective police control but at the same time he made it sound like it is fairly easy to get any quantity and any type of firearm. He also described the ‘Weapons Board’ as an ad-hoc body, when this is in fact a statutory board set up under the terms of the Arms Act. Mr. Ellul also incorrectly stated that the largest number of licensed persons are collectors followed by hunters and that sport shooters are a very small group. We invite him to ask the Police for a list of licences issued to date so that he may correct his impression.

The presenter touted the idea that someone with criminal intent would go through the process to get access to firearms. Does it not even cross his mind that a criminal has immediate access to unlicensed firearms?

However, what is interesting is Mr. Ellul’s rooting for the forensic screening of legally registered firearms. He called for government to seriously look into investing in this expensive exercise. Why do we say this fact is interesting? Because it always turns up when there is an impressionable new Minister at the helm of the Police.

Someone has been desperately trying to flog this equipment, which costs millions to install and run and which would commit police manpower for years to produce… absolutely no results! Other countries went down that path and squandered millions of taxpayers’ money only to realise that a criminal with a nail-file could hide all the evidence.

The most dangerous weapon is irresponsible journalism.