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Singapore’s gun clubs told to get rid of 70 weapons for security reasons

Military-grade sub-machine guns among the weapons to be destroyed or exported

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 2:05pm

By Low Lin Fhoong

Due to security concerns, police in Singapore have ordered the Singapore Gun Club (SGC) and the Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) to remove about 70 firearms, including several military-grade sub-machine guns, from the armouries at the National Shooting Centre at Old Choa Chu Kang Road, TODAY has learnt.

The move came after a review — understood to be prompted by concerns in light of the current security climate and terrorist threat — of the firearms and ammunition allowed for use in Singapore, including sports shooting.

Under the new directive, only permitted handguns, rifles, shotguns and air weapons, as well as the respective ammunition, will be allowed for use at the centre. All automatic weapons, semi-automatic rifles and air weapons are prohibited.

The police issued the latest order in December, nearly a year after the authorities had initially seized 77 firearms from SGC and SRA, as well as ordered the centre to be closed to all shooting activities except for national training, because of serious licensing irregularities.

An audit by the Police Licensing and Regulatory Department had found irregularities in the records of guns which had belonged to members who had died, quit the clubs or left the country.

Responding to queries from TODAY, a Singapore Police Force spokesperson said: “The Police have conducted a review of the types of firearms and ammunition that individuals and entities in Singapore can possess, if licensed to do so. One of the areas reviewed was sports shooting. The Police worked with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Sport Singapore (Sport SG) to balance the national interest of promoting sports shooting with security concerns.”

The spokesperson added that following the review, the police are working with Sport SG and the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA) “on the removal of non-permissible firearms and ammunition for sports shooting from the National Shooting Centre”.

The SGC and SRA have been told by the authorities to destroy or export non-permissible firearms and ammunition belonging to their members. TODAY understands that the majority of these weapons belong to SRA members, and that a number of them are military-grade sub-machine guns.

The latest police order comes amid a rise in lone-wolf terror attacks around the world, including mass shootings. On Sunday, a French Canadian university student opened fire at a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers, killing six people and injuring eight others. On New Year’s Day, a lone gunman murdered dozens of revellers at an Istanbul nightclub, with the Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the attack.

SGC told TODAY that it had destroyed 10 firearms at the end of last month. Its president Michael Vaz said the club “will comply with whatever the authorities have dictated without question”.

Mr Vaz, who is also president of the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA), said: “In light of the terrorist activity in the region and the world, we agree with the stance that the authorities have taken. I see no reason to own or shoot such firearms at the National Shooting Centre.”

According to SGC, only authorised personnel were previously allowed into its armoury to retrieve the firearms and ammunition, and gun owners were required to sign their weapons and ammunition in and out each time.

An SRA spokesperson said it was aware of the review but referred TODAY’s queries on the findings to the police.

The latest development comes during a tumultuous time for the Singapore shooting fraternity. In February last year, a police probe was launched following the seizure of the firearms, and the NSC remains closed to members of the public.

The SSA and SRA have also been involved in a number of legal disputes in the last two years involving the armoury, the SSA’s attempts to suspend the SRA’s privileges, as well as a defamation suit lodged by the SRA over remarks made by Mr Vaz. In December last year, the SSA announced that it was expelling the SRA from the association.

Gun clubs told to get rid of 70 weapons for security reasons