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THOROUGH BACKGROUND CHECKS are a must before you can possibly get a firearm licence. Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin stressed this point yesterday as he responded to critics of the time it has been taking for licensed firearm applications to be processed.“As was said by a member of staff, issuing firearm licences is not issuing for the importation or sale of bread. These are implements or weapons that are lethal,” the police chief told the SUNDAY SUN. “And so I think that you have to be certain about whatever measures that are put in place, and that they don’t put the society at risk.”Dottin’s comments followed recent charges by local gun dealers that the slow process by police was seriously affecting their businesses.But the top cop said:” [Processing applications] is going to take some time, given the increase in the number of applications, given the background checks that have to be carried out, just to make certain that firearms don’t fall into the hands of undesirable persons.“So I think that is a small price to pay for our security in this country.”Noting there was a significant increase in applications for firearms over the past years, Dottin said the approval rate had been “veritably stable”.“In 2008 we processed 157 applications; in 2009 we processed 204. In 2008, 94 applications were refused, 57 approved; and we granted 27 changes of [firearm] calibre. In 2009, 41 applications were refused and 64 approved; and [there were] 71 changes of [firearm] calibre.”Dottin also said that a number of the applications made for firearm licences were in most cases status quo requests.“I think that by far and away the majority of the applications we get are [from] people [drawing] attention to their personal property. Also it’s about the type of job they hold. There are some people who feel that because they are law-abiding citizens, that gives them an entitlement to have a firearm,” he said. The police chief also spoke specifically about a concern to firearm dealers.“We have had a recent audit of all firearm dealers and there are some findings that have caused me some concern; and I am going to be having a meeting with firearm dealers to bring some observations to their attention.“Such that we can improve some of the practices and standards that we feel are required for the functioning of firearm dealers. We certainly would also be having those discussions with shooting clubs,” he said.Dottin also disclosed that countries that exported firearms and ammunition to Barbados were also concerned about the significant quantities of ammunition being used locally.