A two-week gun amnesty will take effect on Saturday, November 5, following the approval of the Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) (Firearms Amnesty) Order 2022 by the Senate, today (November 4).
The amnesty is slated to end midnight on Saturday, November 19.
The Order, which will facilitate the amnesty, was moved by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Hon. Matthew Samuda. It was approved by the House of Representatives on November 1.
Senator Samuda said the amnesty is the last opportunity for those who hold or are in possession of illegal firearms or ammunition to avoid significant sentences and forms an important milestone in Jamaica’s fight against illegal guns.
He urged those possessing illegal firearms or ammunition to make full use of the amnesty.
“There is significant data… to show that members of gangs cannot be rehabilitated in three and a half years, which has been the average of many of our firearm sentences; this changes that,” the Minister said.
“This gives us a fresh start in the war against illegal firearms. It is not a panacea, it’s not a silver bullet, it’s a part of a suite of investments, a suite of interventions [and] legislation, which must come together for us to break the back of this scourge,” Senator Samuda added.
Breaches of the new Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act, 2022, which is now in effect, will result in penalties ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment.
The Minister said once the amnesty expires, the full force of the law is expected to be applied to anyone found in possession of an illegal firearm or ammunition.
Senator Samuda stated that firearm amnesties, such as the one subject of the Order, are not unique to Jamaica, because they have been used successfully around the world as an operational tool to reduce the high levels of armed violence resulting from the proliferation of firearms and ammunition.
He further informed that for the last 25 years, Jamaica recorded, on average, 1,270 murders annually, the vast majority being committed with illegal firearms, adding that the firearm is the weapon of choice for murders and other acts of crime and armed violence in Jamaica.
The Minister said since 2018, the Security Forces have taken more than 3,200 illegal firearms from the streets and in excess of 53,000 rounds of ammunition. Each year, they have seized upwards of 625 firearms.
He added that as at October 31, 2022, a total of 652 firearms have been seized. This represents an 11 per cent increase over the 585 recorded for the similar period in 2021.
“I want to emphasise that the aim of this measure is not to reveal the identities of the persons who comply with the amnesty. The amnesty is also intended to provide an opportunity for licence holders who are in possession of expired authorisations to surrender their weapons to the (Firearm Licensing) Authority (FLA),” he said.
The conditions for the surrender of firearms or ammunition are outlined in the Order. These may be handed over to a subofficer or senior subofficer on duty at any police station; any designated officer at a Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA) location; or to an Attorney-at-Law on behalf of an individual seeking the amnesty, for delivery to the nearest police station.
Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Peter Bunting, said the Opposition is in support of all efforts to tackle the issue of crime in the country, “so long as the methods employed are within the ambit of our laws and Constitution”.