Public pressure forces PM to toss handgun business proposal

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Moments after he told the nation – via OBSERVER Radio – that “there’s absolutely no need for hysteria” over a proposal to set up a handgun assembly plant in Antigua, Prime Minister Gaston Browne bowed to public pressure to scrap what many cried was a “bad idea”.
The country’s leader and his Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration received harsh criticism from scores of people soon after he defended a leaked document – regarding the hand gun business – which was read on the Snakepit programme on Saturday afternoon.
In the document, dated April 18, 2017, the writer starts out “Dear Minister” and continues “Please find the following for your support and assistance. Thank you…Legislation for the handgun assembly plant in the Special Economic Zone…” and it ends “Your friend Zhang Yida”.
The prime minister was confronted about the proposed project on radio when he made an impromptu call to weigh in on an unrelated issue.
He explained with confidence, “They will be operating within the special economic zone so they are prohibited from distributing or selling handguns within the domestic market. These guns will be strictly for exportation and will be governed by regulations which will be taken to Parliament. So, I just want to make that abundantly clear.”
PM Browne provided further details: “It will be based off-shore…you can drive and go up there but you cannot go and buy a gun and if they sell you a gun then they will be heavily fined…all the guns have to be accounted for and they have to come with special serial marks, serial numbers.”
The country’s leader then sought to assure the public that “there will be proper systems in place and it will be governed by legal regulations and administrative practices [will be] put in place so they are not offered for sale in the domestic market.”
Thereafter, scores of residents weighed in, calling the deal “potentially corrupt”, “a bad idea”, “crazy”, “foolishness” “scary” and “frightening” among other strong adjectives.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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