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131 people under 18 arrested for possession of offensive weapons in the past three years: MHA

131 people under 18 arrested for possession of offensive weapons in the past three years: MHA

File photo of a police officer arresting a suspect. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: 131 people under the age of 18 have been arrested for the possession of offensive weapons in the past three years, said Minister of State for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Desmond Tan on Tuesday (Aug 3). 

He was responding to a question from Member of Parliament Desmond Choo (PAP-Tampines) about whether the current measures to restrict youths’ access to offensive weapons are sufficient, following the River Valley High School incident on Jul 19

Preliminary investigations suggest that the axe that was seized as a case exhibit after the incident was bought online, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had said on Jul 20. 

READ: River Valley High death: Investigations suggest axe was bought online, says K Shanmugam

“In determining which items to include, we have to find an appropriate balance, as almost any item can be used as a weapon, including those used in daily life like kitchen knives and choppers,” said Mr Tan on Tuesday.

“Highly dangerous weapons like guns and explosives must be tightly regulated as they can cause a lot of damage,” added Mr Tan, who is also the Minister of State for the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment. 

“For other mixed-use items like axes, which have normal legitimate uses, we may want to impose some controls, but need to consider carefully exactly what, so that we do not over-regulate.” 

Under the Arms and Explosives Act, six weapons are currently regulated - swords, spears, spearheads, daggers, bayonets and certain dangerous bows and arrows, he added. 

People who handle these weapons are subject to “certain safety conditions”, said Mr Tan. For example, sellers must maintain transaction records of such items and owners of these items must store them securely. 

The Guns, Explosives and Weapons Control Act, which was introduced in January, will replace the Arms and Explosive Act when it comes into force at the end of this year. 

Under the new Act, the list of regulated weapons will be expanded and subject to greater controls, said Mr Tan. 

In a supplementary question, Mr Choo asked about the required age verification checks conducted by online and in-person retailers. 

READ: Owning digital plans to 3D-print guns without licence to be made a crime after new Bill passed

He also asked if there were plans to require retailers to report “suspicious transactions”, and how MHA will work with the Education Ministry to strengthen awareness of the dangers of offensive weapons and checks for them in schools. 

In response, Mr Tan said that MHA will “constantly review” the supply of and age verification required for controlled weapons and mixed use items to assess the appropriate level of controls. 

“We are currently considering requiring the e-commerce platforms, for example, as well as the brick and mortar retailers, to take reasonable steps to … do some age verification checks and ensure that those, especially who are clearly underage, do not have access to these items,” he added. 

Addressing Mr Choo’s questions about reporting suspicious transactions, Mr Tan said there are “some practical challenges”. 

“It’s even harder sometimes for retailers, especially online retailers, to understand or to verify the intent or purpose of the purchase of legitimate items that are used for legitimate reasons,” he added. 

MHA and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has been working with schools and the Ministry of Education (MOE) to implement the SG Secure movement, and other forms of security protocols, said Mr Tan. 

“SPF will continue to work with the schools and MOE to strengthen the awareness ... as well as the response protocol for these weapons incidents and checks in the school.” 

Source: CNA/hw(ta)

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