KINGSTON – A 14-day gun amnesty will begin next Wednesday, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang announced on the same day that police reported an increase in the number of illegal firearms seized this year.
The announcement in the House of Representatives came as the new Firearms Prohibition and Restriction Act, which provides for penalties of 15 years to life in prison, took effect on Tuesday.
It also came on the same day that Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson disclosed that 652 illegal firearms had been seized since January, representing an 11 per cent increase over the same period last year.
Chang said the amnesty from November 5 to 19 will enable anyone in possession of illegal or unregistered firearms and ammunition to surrender the weapons without the fear of prosecution.
He said it was not only criminals who were being encouraged to turn in their guns.
“There are individuals who may have inherited a firearm from a grandfather or uncle who may have had it locked in a safe and just had not paid any attention to it,” the minister said.
“There might also be young men living in a tough community who are honest, hard-working individuals; they might have applied for a firearm licence and they didn’t get it, acquired a firearm with no intention of committing a criminal act, and therefore find themselves exposed. We are providing an opportunity for them to surrender the firearm.”
Chang warned that once the amnesty expires, the full force of the law will be applied to anyone found in possession of an illegal firearm or ammunition.
In his contribution, Opposition Leader Mark Golding called for a register to be established when a weapon is surrendered and a receipt generated for that weapon with its specifics, including serial number and make.
“Right now, it just says go in and hand in a weapon, and there is no paperwork around that and there is no accountability,” he said. “It may be that there is an intention to implement that operationally, but I would have thought that the order itself would have required it.”