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Urgent widespread public education on our laws needed

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The discussion currently taking place among members of the public, especially holders of firearm permits, about where firearms can be legally taken is useful.

Over the last weekend, SEARCHLIGHT did a limited survey of holders of firearm permits and almost unanimously, they told us that they had been unaware of any law restricting where they are allowed to take their firearms within the borders of St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

Another thing that each one of them said is that when they received their permits, they had been instructed by the police that their firearm should be in their possession at all times, or failing that, locked in a vault or safe. According to the gun owners, never was there any mention that their firearms should not be taken to public meetings or processions, as defined under the Public Order Act.

Since there seems to be a consensus among licensed firearm holders about what they were told by the police about where firearms could be taken, it is reasonsble to assume that many police officers are also deficient in their knowlege of the subject matter.

It is clear that some urgent public education needs to take place, as being unaware of the law is no defence. Also unsettling is the realization that the police, who are charged with the responsibility to enforce the law, are themselves not clear about the laws of the country.

While we are on the topic of public education about the laws and regulations of the country, we would like to suggest that the Supervisor of Elections gets the assistance of the Agency for Public Information to make an educational documentary on the entire voting process, including the registration process, what takes place in the polling station on election day and the counting of ballots. A dramatization of the details of the processes involved will go a long way towards clearing up many of the misconceptions that exist among the public, especially in the wake of the elections of December 9, 2015.

Although the proposed 2009 Constitution failed in the Referendum of November 25, 2009, the entire exercise was certainly not wasted, as the general public came away with a much clearer understanding of what is a Constitution and the provisions contained in ours. The same can happen for many other aspects of the law about which the public is unclear.

Mr Parnel R Campbell QC and his weekly ‘The Law and You’ television programme do an excellent job educating the public about our laws, but we need to go further. Some assistance should be provided to Mr Campbell to have those programmes circulated on social media and on the radio, so that as wide a cross-section of the general public as possible can benefit.

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