Amended Firearms Legislation provides for increased penalties
Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves
April 9, 2024

Amended Firearms Legislation provides for increased penalties

The existing Firearms legislation has been amended to include two new offences, and to increase fines and penalties for a number of other offences.

The Firearms Amendment Bill 2024, was passed in Parliament last Thursday April 4, 2024, after much debate.

Leading off debate on the Bill Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves explained that Parliament was seeking to amend the Firearms Act of 1995, and noted that members of the public have been calling for increased penalties for gun crimes, as cases rise in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“The people have been calling for a greater bundle of penalties,” commented the Prime Minister, who also has responsibility for National Security.

Added to the original Bill is a new clause whereby the holder of a licensed firearm is guilty of an offence if he or she contravenes the terms of that license.

Upon conviction, such an accused faces a fine not exceeding $20,000 or six months in jail.

Another addition to the Law is the charge for possession of a ghost gun, or a 3D printed firearm.

Dr Gonsalves pointed out that “an increasing number of these things are happening with ghost guns or 3D printed firearms.”

He explained that this new offence in the amendment is meant to keep abreast with the new technological age.

Upon summary conviction, such an accused can be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years, or a maximum of 25 years at the High Court.

Also, persons will now be charged for possession of two or more firearms for the purpose of trafficking, under the amended legislation.

Upon summary conviction, a accused person can be fined a maximum of $200,000 or a maximum of 15 years in jail.

Upon indictment in the High Court, such an accused faces a maximum jail term of 25 years.

Under the amendments which were passed on Thursday, possession of a prohibited weapon, unless authorized by statute (weapons used by members of the RSVGPF), now carries a 15 year jail term instead of 10 years upon summary conviction, and 25 years instead of 20 years in jail if convicted in the High Court.

Two years have been added with respect to persons convicted of intent to endanger life with a firearm, the new maximum jail term is seven years upon summary conviction.

The maximum sentence in the High Court has also moved from 30 to 35 years.

“This is a very serious offence,” Dr Gonsalves stressed as he spoke on the amendments.

He said regarding this offence, a person does not necessarily have to be injured. “Once you have the firearm with intent to injure the person or to endanger the life, the offence is triggered.”

He further explained that such an accused can also be charged for firearm possession, and if there is injury, the charge could also include grievous bodily harm, if the victim is maimed, disfigured, or disabled.

The maximum penalty for possession of an imitation firearm has moved from five to seven years upon summary conviction, and from 25 to 30 years upon indictment.

Speaking about the seriousness of the amendments, Dr Gonsalves said “ I want those who are having one, and those who are having two weapons to understand that this Bill is not a joke.”

He further urged holders of illegal weapons to make use of the 92 day gun amnesty which comes to an end on May 31, 2024.

“You have your gun, give it in now, because when this comes into being, the penalty going to be stiffer, and if you have two in your possession, you could be out of circulation for a very long time,” he pointed out, as he lamented the fascination of young males with guns.

A number of other increased penalties are outlined in the amended legislation.

In his contribution to debate on the Bill, Opposition Senator Israel Bruce, called on the government to make a greater investment in social organizations such as the Girl Guides, Boys Scouts and other NGO’s to aid in eradicating illegal gun crimes.

Senator Bruce added that the home, school and church, also have a role to play in this regard.

The NDP Senator who is a lawyer by profession, said there is need for a multidisciplinary approach in the fight against crimes committed using illegal firearms.

And, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves in his contribution to the debate, commended the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force for their efforts in addressing crime and violence.

“It is not an easy job for a largely unarmed constabulary to walk about in St Vincent and the Grenadines and to arrest violent crime.

“These men and women perform their job bravely and with distinction.”

The finance minister disclosed that for the period 2017 to the present the record showed that 420 firearms were committed.

He noted the increase in gun crimes and said this “ requires a legislative response.”

The minister also noted that in the 2024 budget the sum of $105 million was allocated for citizens’ security.

This is the second amendment to the Firearms Amendment Bill with increased penalties being taken to Parliament by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration.