BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth – Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang says the Government will be increasing the penalty for people found with illegal firearms.
“The Government will be sending a message that it is going to treat illegal firearms extremely hard...We are not apologising for that and we have to structure the law right that [the] breach of Firearm License and Regulation Act will be different from the Illegal Firearm Act.
“A gun does nothing, but kill. Anybody found with an illegal gun is a killer, my opinion. Therefore, they must pay the penalty and be treated as such,” he said, while speaking at the St Elizabeth police headquarters in Black River on Thursday.
Dr Chang's comments follow the proclamations of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who last November told the Jamaica Labour Party's annual conference that anyone found with an illegal gun should be given the death penalty.
At the time Holness said, “Anyone found with a gun [that is illegal] should start with the death penalty. That's how strongly I feel about it...that's how serious we should treat it”.
Dr Chang said the Government is focused on bringing the new Firearms Bill to Parliament soon, which will see strong sentences being handed down for every illegal firearm.
“Changing legislation in Jamaica is not the easiest thing to do, I find. In fact, it is easier to equip the police quite frankly, because whatever we do in Jamaica we have to meet certain standards, which is within our constitution. We also have a liberal legacy as a country in terms of our approach to justice, but we are examining a number of them,” he said.
Further, Chang said the Bail Act is a concern in relation to people found with illegal firearms and will also be reviewed for amendment.
“We have to look at the Bail Act — a fundamental piece of our legislation — but there are still questions that we have from a security point of view when one is caught with an illegal firearm, when one is charged with aggravated assault and murder with a weapon. How do they get bail so quickly? Why?” he asked. “[The] consequences have to be increased and I think the Government has taken that on.”