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Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang on Tuesday announced a 14-day gun amnesty, as the penalty regime for the new Firearms Prohibition and Restriction Act comes into effect.

The amnesty is to begin on November 5 and end on November 19, Chang told colleague lawmakers in the Lower House.

Noting that breaches of the act, which was gazetted hours before his announcement, would result in penalties ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment, the minister said the amnesty would allow persons in possession of illegal or unregistered firearms and ammunition to surrender the weapons to the State without the fear of prosecution.

“It’s not just a criminal changing his mind. There are individuals who may have inherited a firearm from grandfather or uncle who may have had it locked in a safe and just had not paid any attention to it,” Chang 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,” he added.

He said persons who hand over weapons to the State or disclose the location of an illegal firearm or ammunition during the period will not be charged with illegal possession, custody, or control of the firearm.

The weapons may be surrendered to the police, through an attorney-at-law, or persons may call the numbers provided in the order.

“Once the amnesty expires, we can expect the full force of the law to be applied to anyone found in possession of an illegal firearm or ammunition,” he said, noting that the amnesty does not impair the police in dealing with criminals.

He argued that the amnesty is not unique to Jamaica and has been announced to help with the reduction of violence in the country.

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson on Tuesday disclosed that 652 illegal firearms have been seized since January, an 11 per cent increase year-on-year. There has also been a 40 per cent increase in the seizure of rifles and a 10 per cent increase in pistols seized.

The latest crime figures point to a 4.6 per cent increase in major crimes since January, with murders up by 7.5 per cent, robberies up by 20 per cent, and break-ins up by nine per cent.

However, shootings are down by six per cent and rapes by 12 per cent.

Chang told Parliament that on average, in the last 25 years, Jamaica has recorded 1,270 murders, the vast majority of which were committed using illegal firearms.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding called for “extensive” training of the police, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the judiciary as it relates to the provisions of the new act.

He said failure to do this will affect how the legislation works.

Additionally, Golding raised concerns about the absence of accountability under the amnesty order.

He wants 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. 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,” said Golding.

He suggested that a supplemental order be brought to the House before Saturday.


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