Age verification for online purchase of axes, other items being considered: Desmond Tan

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Singapore's Parliament House. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Singapore's Parliament House. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The government is considering requiring e-commerce platforms and brick and mortar retailers to do age verification checks for the purchase of items like axes and knives to ensure that underage persons do not have access to these items, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan on Tuesday (3 August).

Tan was speaking in Parliament in response to a question by Tampines Member of Parliament Desmond Choo on whether current measures are sufficient to restrict juveniles' access to offensive weapons in light of a recent school incident allegedly involving an offensive weapon.

“On the one hand we do not want to over-regulate. On the other hand...access to kitchen knives and choppers can become a form of weapon. So we have to find the right balance,” Tan said.

His comments come after Education Minister Chan Chun Sing told Parliament last week that during the recent fatal incident at River Valley High School (RVHS), an RVHS student was holding an axe.

While the 16-year-old student has been charged with the murder of a 13-year-old fellow student at the school, no details of any offensive weapon are stated in the charge sheet. Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam previously commented on the incident, saying preliminary investigations revealed that an axe was bought online. The police have also seized an axe as a case exhibit.

Tan acknowledged there are practical challenges for the reporting of “suspicious transactions”. It is hard for retailers to verify the intent and purpose of the purchase of mixed-use items that are used for legitimate reasons such as kitchen knives, he said.

In reply to another question by Choo, Tan said 131 persons under 18 years of age have been arrested for possession of offensive weapons in the past three years.

The Ministry of Home Affairs currently regulates six weapons under the Arms and Explosives Act (AEA) – sword, spear, spearhead, dagger, bayonet and certain dangerous bows and arrows. Persons who handle these weapons need to meet certain safety conditions. For example, sellers must maintain transaction records of such items, and owners of such items must store them securely.

The Guns, Explosives and Weapons Control Act (GEWCA) will replace the AEA and comes into force by the year-end. Under the GEWCA, the list of regulated weapons will be expanded and subject to greater controls.

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