November 26, 2004
Tougher penalties for gunmen

Persons found with illegal weapons will have to pay more dearly for their transgressions. If caught with any such weapon, one should prepare to face seven years in jail, pay $20,000, or both. That according to the Firearms (Amendment) Bill passed in the House of Assembly on Tuesday 16. {{more}}The legislation went through all its stages, though there was no contribution from the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which staged the second successive boycott of Parliament.

While that debate was going on, the three elected opposition NDP parliamentarians were with their supporters in a picket outside the House of Assembly building against the government’s approach to the construction of the cross country road.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said he was “dismayed” by the opposition action, though that did not slow down the proceedings.

Dr. Gonsalves outlined reasons for the Bill, noting the increase in the acts of lawlessness, some he termed senseless.

So far this year, there have been 24 murders – the highest ever recorded here for one calendar year. The Prime Minister noted that half of the killings were gun-related.

He pointed to the lenient laws governing firearms and announced new measures aimed at giving magistrates more powers to deal with offenders.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the measure might not cause a reduction in the crime, but that it was one measure.

“We need to make sure that the gun men are behind bars,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

He used the occasion to highlight the things that had been done to improve the welfare and well being of the police.

Support for the new Bill came from Senators Glen Beache, Edwin Snagg, as well as Education Youth and Sports Minister Mike Browne.