SINGAPORE, Aug 4 — Over a span of three years from 2018, 131 youths under 18 years old were arrested for possessing offensive weapons, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan in Parliament today (August 3).
The authorities, he said, are also considering requiring e-commerce platforms and physical stores to take “reasonable steps” to verify the age of consumers before allowing them to buy potentially dangerous items that have legitimate uses, such as axes and choppers.
While it may want to impose some controls on these items, the government still needs to consider the exact kind of controls, to prevent over-regulation, he said.
Tan was responding to a parliamentary question by Member of Parliament for Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Desmond Choo, who asked whether there are sufficient measures in place to restrict juveniles’ access to offensive weapons and how many youths have been arrested for possession of such weapons.
On July 19, a 16-year-old River Valley High School student was arrested for allegedly killing a 13-year-old schoolmate. Police seized an axe and early investigations suggested that the 16-year-old had purchased the axe online.
The accused was charged with murder the next day and has been remanded for psychiatric assessment.
Tan said that under the Arms and Explosives Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs currently regulates six weapons — the sword, spear, spearhead, dagger, bayonet and certain types of bows and arrows.
Anyone who handles these weapons are subject to certain safety conditions. For example, sellers must maintain transaction records of such items and owners of such items must store them securely.
The list of regulated weapons will be expanded to include karambits, for example, when a new legislation called the Guns, Explosives and Weapons Control Act replaces the current laws at the end of this year.
Choo then asked if retailers are required to verify the age of buyers of offensive weapons and whether there are plans to require retailers to report suspicious transactions.
In response, Tan said that while the Government is considering requiring age verification for such purchases, there are practical challenges especially for online retailers when it comes to verifying a consumer’s intent when buying an item that has a legitimate or household use such as a kitchen knife.
Tan said that a balance needs to be struck, especially for mixed-use items like axes and knives which may be used as weapons but also have legitimate uses.
“On one hand, we do not want to over-regulate. On the other hand, even for nefarious purposes, actually access to kitchen knives and choppers can become a form of weapon,” he said. ― TODAY