OPPOSITION Senator Lambert Brown says the Government needs to put the new Firearms Bill into action now, as not only have gun murders continued unabated since its passage, but the delay will result in offenders escaping the tough penalties under that piece of legislation.
Speaking in the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday, Brown said: “We rushed to pass it, but what of it? File 13? Where is it now? Where is the appointed date…so many have been killed since, how many have been held with illegal firearms, but they’re not going to get 15 years. What of the regulations associated with this Act? When are they going to come to Parliament?”
“Time come to see serious action. This Bill was tabled over eight months ago in Parliament, it went through the parliamentary process and was passed over a month ago. We are now in October 2022 — where is the action against the criminals. Passing the Bill is not enough,” Brown insisted.
The Opposition senator said the Government needs to take effective action to prevent and reduce the high murder rate facing the country, noting that former National Security Minister Senator Peter Bunting’s reference to the need for divine intervention during his tenure — was met with public ridicule at the time — is now evidenced by the state of “fear and trepidation” Jamaicans exist in.
He said that if Security Minister Dr Horace Chang’s 2019 figures of almost 200 illegal firearms entering the country monthly, then more than 700 illegal guns would have come into the island in the past three years.
Brown pointed to the police’s statistics of an average of 65 guns seized monthly, surmising that against the 2019 figure for the importation of illegal weapons, this means that only three out of every 10 illegal guns are being seized. “Seven out of every illegal gun remains in the hands of the criminals. So every month there is a deficit in favour of the criminal. It’s no wonder the gun accounts for 85 per cent of the murders committed in Jamaica each year”.
“We need to force these evil gunmen on the retreat,” Brown told the Senate. “There was a time when people felt all you needed to do was stop going out at night, and you’d have a sense of safety,” he said, pointing to an 8.1 per cent increase in murders for this year, up to Saturday when 1,265 murders were recorded. The country recorded 1,463 murders in 2021 and 1,323 in 2020.
At the same time, Brown argued that no one political party can solve the crime problem. “It’s a tough issue…we need a national consensus on crime fighting,” and that a partisan political gathering is not the place to announce a national crime plan.
He was referring to recent indications by the Government that it intends to announce the way forward on crime at the Jamaica Labour Party’s 79th annual conference on November 20.
“What that does is to say this is a JLP plan. What Jamaican needs now is national unity against the criminals, so find another place. Come to Parliament, go to Vale Royal, go to Jamaica House — but make it a national rather than a partisan approach,” he stressed.