Make use of gun amnesty, commissioner warns
Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson has urged persons to take advantage of the pending gun amnesty before warning that "at the end of the amnesty there is no excuse" for individuals who are caught with an illegal gun.
The amnesty, which is a requirement of the new Firearms Act, passed in the House of Representatives on September 23, will come into effect this weekend.
"Quite often people end up with a gun in their possession. They didn't remember it was in the safe, they have been holding it for somebody, the person has moved abroad, passed on or whatever it is, and they get more and more worried about how they going to get rid of that gun from their possession. And so, this gives an opportunity to do that," said Anderson during the police's monthly press conference on Tuesday.
"It also gives an opportunity for another [person] who has a change of heart who may have a gun to turn it in, that's what it does. But at the end of the amnesty there is no excuse," he warned. The amnesty, which was announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in September, gives holders of illegal firearms a chance to turn them in without prosecution before the new gun law, which contains stiffer penalties for convicted offenders, takes effect.
"These are not criminal gunmen but people who have firearms that they shouldn't have in their possessions because they are not licensed to have them. It gives them an opportunity or people who found a gun and kept it, just in case and all of that, this gives them an opportunity to turn it in," Anderson added.
According to police statistics, more than 80 per cent of the almost 30,000 Jamaicans who have been murdered in the past two decades were killed by guns. Additionally, the police report that 1,294 people have been killed between January 1 to October 29 this year, an eight per cent increase year-on-year.
There has been increased talk about the need to impose harsher penalties for those convicted of gun-related offences, as the average three-year prison sentence does little to deter individuals from possessing an illegal weapon. The new Firearms Act provides a minimum 15-year prison sentence for persons caught with an illegal firearm.
In the two previous gun amnesties, 1,071 illegal guns were handed over to the police.