Commish hosts media as new Firearm Act takes effect

Armed with a new Firearm Act, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson is expected to update the nation today on measures to rein in Jamaica’s murder figure which, at the end of last week, was eight per cent over the corresponding period in 2021.

Anderson, who was scheduled to make a presentation to the Cabinet on Monday, will host his monthly media briefing this afternoon, the day that the Firearm (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act, 2022 takes effect.

With 1,294 murders reported since the start of this year, 92 more than the same period last year, Anderson will now have legislation which provides life imprisonment for people convicted of trafficking or dealing in illegal firearms, with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

In instances where people are convicted of possession of illegal firearms or ammunition in a Circuit Court they face the possibility of life imprisonment, while people convicted of possession of firearms or ammunition with intent to injure or cause serious damage will face a term of imprisonment for not less than 15 years or more than 25 years.

In September, Anderson lauded the new legislation which, he said, means that, “for those people in the illegal gun trade, whether you possess it, traffic it, transport it, bring it into the country or whatever you do with it, you will be facing sentences of 15 years and upwards”.

He added: “For us as police officers, this will make a huge difference because the [police force] has seen these [people] like a revolving door. They’ve been in our custody, they’ve been charged for illegal guns, they paid their fine, they’ve gotten their one year and they are back out [doing] the same things that they were doing before.”

Under the new legislation, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has announced that a gun amnesty will be implemented at 12:01 on Saturday, November 5. Clause 19 of the Act gives the power to the minister to declare a firearms amnesty, by order, subject to affirmative resolution.

According to Chang, the amnesty will be in place for two weeks and targets people who might have come in possession of an illegal gun and not the hardcore criminals.

“There are individuals in the society… who might have inherited a firearm from their grandfather… you may have one because of legacy, someone died and leave their firearm and they are not using it,” Chang said during an interview on Nationwide News Network Monday morning.

“The object of the amnesty is to allow individuals who might have a firearm that is illegal for whatever reason… to get into the legal system,” added Chang as he noted that firearms which might be surrendered in the amnesty will be put through ballistic tests to see if they were used in illegal activities.

In the meantime, the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) is to this week launch a national campaign to support enforcement and public awareness surrounding the new Firearm Act.

FLA Chief Executive Officer Shane Dalling recently declared that the campaign will highlight the transformational changes that are taking place at his agency based on the new law.

“The 2022 Firearm Act is a monumental piece of legislation which the FLA gives its full support. We are launching this national campaign to assist the Ministry of National Security in its bid to clamp down on the growing issue of illegal weapons and its impact on Jamaica’s crime rate,” he said.

“Most importantly, there is a considerable need for public education on what the law is, how it will be enforced, how these offences affect all of us and how the FLA is here to help through the restructuring of our operations,” said Dalling.

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