PM goes to school

Referencing that one of the first people to be arrested under the new Firearms Act was a 15-year-old, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Wednesday that a collaboration will be formed with churches to launch a national campaign in schools to help change the gun culture in Jamaica.

Holness shared that information during his address at the third annual National Day of Prayer, held under the theme “Teach Us True Respect for All”, at the National Arena in Kingston where hundreds of Jamaicans were in attendance for praise and worship.

He explained that the campaign is expected to heighten the awareness among youngsters about the dangers of getting involved in violent crimes and using illegal weapons.

“No youngster should say I did not know the consequences. I have tried to use every medium including the new developing vernaculars to communicate the danger of possessing an illegal weapon,” he said.

“Now we will be going face-to-face as much as possible to reach all our youngsters in Jamaica so that they understand — throw away the guns, don’t throw away your life,” said Holness.

At the same time, the prime minister recalled his address at last year’s event where he mentioned that the new Firearms Act, which took effect last November, would be coming, as he had expressed his distress at the country’s violent crimes.

“I spoke to you last year that we were coming with a new Firearms Act. Last year I was very emotional about the killings that were taking place and we managed to pass the Firearms Act in November of last year. Already over 80 persons have been arrested for the possession of firearms, that’s almost two per day and they are going to be facing a minimum of 15 years in prison, up to life,” said Holness.

“Now, one of the first persons arrested under this new law was a 15-year-old. As prime minister, when we make laws, yes, we want to deter, yes, we want to punish, but we also want to be fair under the social dynamics in our country,” he said.

“The truth of that dynamic is that a 15-year-old with a gun could kill and we have many cases with 15- and 14-year-olds who have killed and are not only charged with possession, but murder. So the society has to draw the line and send a strong signal, but the responsibility of the Government doesn’t only stop there,” he said to much applause from the audience.

According to Holness, the Government has a responsibility to reach to those 15- and 14-year-olds who have unlimited access to television shows that glorify guns and who are misled by gang leaders who hand them the guns.

“We also have a duty to ensure they are properly informed not to take up guns. It is the intention of the Government to launch within our schools to get to every classroom in Jamaica. I will be part of it — to visit the schools and explain to the youngsters the consequences of getting involved in gangs and crimes and having guns,” he said.

The legislation establishes a dual regime, distinguishing between prohibited weapons or unregulated firearms and activities connected thereto, and firearms that are duly authorised or registered.

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