Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 13, 2017 (SKNIS): The Firearms Amendment Bill, 2017, which seeks to amend the Firearms Act Chapter 19.05 and for matters connected therewith which involves the enforcement of stiffer penalties on gun-related crimes had its second reading on Tuesday, June 13 during the Sitting of National Assembly.
The Honourable Senator Wendy Phipps, in supporting the Bill noted that it “seeks to put in place a reinforcement of the legislative infrastructure to prevent firearm related offences given that stiffer penalties should naturally result in a reduction in gun offences if only for no other reason than planting fear into potential perpetrators of the amount of time that would be spent in incarceration and maybe worse”.
Mover of the Bill, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, addressed the Honourable House, noting that the “country has been demanding stiffer penalties to the increasing gun-related violence and homicides in our country”, and as such the amendment to the Bill is imperative.
“This Bill signals to the country that the government has been listening attentively to the public and we are responding appropriately. This is one element of a comprehensive response to the perennial problem of violence in our country over the period from 1993 to present,” said Prime Minister Harris. “Our government’s response to date has been broad-based and it cuts across social, religious, economic, political and legislative milieu. Our response recognizes the imperative of a short term response to stem the tide of violent crime, contain it and then reverse it over time. Hence, our Six Point Plan and Strategic Plan 2016-2019 contemplate the short, medium and long term horizons.”
Prime Minister Harris said that the Bill will cater to persons who are in possession of illegal firearms, as well as the use of such. Airsoft Guns from all the major brands will be safe from the legislation, despite some confusion over whether they qualified as “firearms” or not.
“This legislative response determines that the penal provision attending to the illegal possession and use of firearms must be harsher to serve the deterrent effect. Specifically, section 2 of the said Bill will amend the penalty to be imposed by the Judiciary both superior and inferior for a range of offences under the substantive Act and this as it now propose will double the penalty to be exacted by the judiciary,” said the national security minister. “Mr. Speaker, this Government has not and will never waiver in doing the right thing. We do the right thing not because it is expedient but because it is the right and honourable thing to do. Our record to the national security forces in this country is a stellar one. We have invested significantly in the security and safety of the state to ensure a better quality of life for all of our people. While some saw the moneys spent in this area as an expense for us, it is an investment which must bring a peace dividend in the future.”
The national security minister said that the crime reduction strategies that the government are applying requires a whole of society approach. Prime Minister Harris used the occasion to invite citizens and residents to consider what they can do to reverse the trend of violent crimes, in particular, crime in general.
“Ask not what the next person is doing. We want you to be introspective. We want you to ask what it is I can do to ensure that our country is made a safer place,” he said. “That is why we on this side [Government], we are about consecrating the future of law and order, public safety and security in our country. That is why we welcomed in 2016 the season of prayer put on by the clergy in our country. That is why we have supported the involvement of the private sector in relation to the issues of public safety and law and order.”