Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated that “out of fairness and equity”, a gun amnesty will be implemented for a short period of time, due to the increased penalties under the new Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act.
There have been criticisms since Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang, first announced the impending gun amnesty in Parliament during closing debate on the new Act last week.
Many have argued that holders of illegal firearms may not opt to hand over their weapons, though they will not face prosecution for doing so.
Holness sought to provide more clarity on the rationale behind the gun amnesty at Wednesday’s passing-out parade ceremony for 300 police constables held on the compound of the National Police College of Jamaica (NPCJ) in Twickenham Park, St Catherine.
He noted that it will be left up to the Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang and the Parliament to determine the form of the amnesty will take.
In relation to the new Act, he is expecting that it will become law shortly after being passed in the Senate.
“Every Jamaican, be aware, be forewarned – the penalties have increased significantly,” Holness advised.
The consequential amendments made to the Offences Against the Person Act will increase penalty provisions for Sections 13, 16 and 17 by including a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for offences involving the use of a firearm.
In addition, under section 20(2), the mandatory sentence has been increased from 15 years to 20 years, in keeping with the proposed penalty regime in the current Bill.
“… And because we have increased penalties significantly, the Government of Jamaica will implement, for a very short time, a period of amnesty,” explained Holness on Wednesday
“Immediately, there are those who scoff at the amnesty: ‘Which bad man a go give up dem gun?’ Well really enuh, I don’t want you to give it up, I want to catch you with it. So don’t give it up!
“… But out of fairness and equity, out of enough forewarning, so that you can’t come in front of the judge and say, ‘Your Honour, I did not know’, we will implement a period of amnesty,” the prime minister outlined.
Thereafter, he said: “The law will be executed to its fullest.”