It is an offence, attracting a fine of $1,500.00, for a person to discharge any firearm or ammunition in a public place or within (40) forty yards of a public road, except where this is done (a) to lawfully protect either one's person or property or the person or property of another, or (b) under the discretion of some duly authorised civil or military body or (c) with the permission of the Commissioner of Police. However, no offence is committed where the discharge was done accidentally. The burden of proving that the discharge was accidental, or done lawfully, rests on the accused.

It should be noted that a police officer is empowered to enter without warrant any premises where he or she has reasonable cause to believe such a discharge took place, and to search for and seize any firearm or ammunition that is reasonably believed to have been the thing discharged. In doing so, the officer may detain the firearm or ammunition for as long as may be necessary to investigate the matter and, if legal proceedings follow, until such proceedings are finally determined.

Possession with Intent

A person may be sentenced to (10) ten years' imprisonment in the High Court if he or she is convicted for possession of a firearm or ammunition with intent to endanger life or to seriously injure property, or to enable another so to do. This applies whether or not any injury to person or property has been caused.

An imitation firearm attracts the same penalty as a real firearm where actual or attempted use is made of it, whether to commit an offence, or to resist or prevent the lawful arrest or detention of the user or some other person. The penalty in the High Court is five years' imprisonment. By "imitation firearm" is meant anything resembling a firearm, whether or not it is capable of discharging ammunition.

Locally-made Firearms

No person may manufacture any firearm or ammunition in the State. A person found guilty of so doing, in the case of a prohibited weapon, is liable in the High Court to five years' imprisonment. In relation to firearm or ammunition other than a prohibited weapon, the penalty in a Magistrate's Court is a fine of $6,000.00 and imprisonment for two years' and, in the High Court, five years' imprisonment. Moreover, no person other than a licensed gunsmith who has obtained prior written approval from the Commissioner of Police may (a) shorten the barrel of a firearm, (b) convert something else into a firearm or (c) convert into a prohibited weapon anything which is not a prohibited weapon.

As to penalties, shortening the barrel of a firearm or converting something else into a firearm carries a penalty in a Magistrate's Court of $6,000.00 or two years' imprisonment or, in the High Court, five years. On its part, converting something else into a prohibited weapon carries a penalty of $15,000.00 or two years' imprisonment, in a Magistrate's Court, and seven years' imprisonment, in the High Court.

The burden of disproving the three offences of shortening the barrel of a firearm, converting something else into a firearm, or converting something that is not a prohibited weapon into a prohibited weapon, rests on the person found in possession.

Firearm Licence

The Commissioner may revoke the licence of a firearm dealer or that of a gunsmith, if either is convicted of an offence under this Act or an offence against "any written law relating to customs." More generally, a licence may be revoked for non-payment of fees or, if the Commissioner is satisfied that the person in question is a drunk or is of unsound mind, or if the Commissioner is so minded.

Even though a person has a bona fide firearm user's licence, he or she may be liable in a Magistrate's Court to a fine of $1,500.00 or to three months' imprisonment, for contravention of any of the conditions on which the licence was granted.

Travelling with Firearms

A person holding a firearm user's licence who is about to travel outside the State may apply to the Commissioner for a licence to take the firearm abroad.

Every person who comes to the State, whether or not required by customs so to do, must declare whether or not he or she has any firearm or ammunition in his or her possession and, if so, what firearm or ammunition. Where such a person has a firearm or ammunition, but does not have a firearm import permit, he or she may deliver same to a customs officer to be dealt with according to customs regulations.

A traveller who fails to declare a firearm or ammunition in his or her possession or fails to deliver same to a Customs officer or makes a statement which he or she knows to be false or does not believe to be true, is liable, if convicted before a Magistrate, to a fine of $6,000.00 or to two years' imprisonment.

It is an offence punishable before a Magistrate by a $6,000.00 fine and two years' imprisonment and, in the High Court, by a fine and five years' imprisonment, for a person to have in his or her possession or under his or her control without lawful authority, any firearm, ammunition, explosive or offensive weapon (a) when boarding, attempting to board or disembarking from any aircraft or (b) while on board an aircraft operated by a company registered in the State. In that case, a person is not deemed as acting in lawful authority unless he or she is a police officer or a security officer employed by the operators of the aircraft. Where the operator is a company registered in the State, the security guard, to be acting in lawful authority, must be the holder of a licence or certificate.

Police Powers

A police officer has power, when in uniform, to stop any vehicle to ascertain whether any firearm or ammunition is being carried therein and is empowered, further, and without warrant, to search the vehicle, the driver or any passenger. It is an offence punishable by a $5,000.00 fine or six months' imprisonment for the driver of a vehicle to fail to stop when requested by a police officer to do so, so that a search for any ammunition may be conducted. It is an offence, further, for a passenger to prevent or intimidate the driver from stopping, at the request of the police officer, or for a person to escape or attempt to escape from a vehicle after an officer has requested that vehicle to stop in order that a search for firearms or ammunition may be conducted. Both offences carry the same penalty imposed on a delinquent driver.

A last word. We firmly believe that over the past five years, gun crimes have increased by leaps and bounds in this, our once-peaceful country. Conflicts and disagreements are not resolved, not by compromise, mediation and discussion, but by the use of firearms. Let us for the good of Dominica bring this to an end. Put away the guns! And, instead, pick up some love for your neighbor!

Copyright © William Para Riviere, August 2013