Dominica government announces gun and ammunition amnesty
ROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – The Dominica government Thursday announced a month-long gun and ammunition amnesty ahead of going to parliament and significantly amending legislation allowing for stiffer penalties for gun-related crimes.
National security minister Rayburn Blackmoore told a news conference that the amnesty would begin next month.
He also disclosed that the proposed legislative changes would allow for persons to be denied bail while awaiting trial on gun charges.
Blackmoore recalled that a similar amnesty was offered in 2007.
He said that based on the current situation he felt the need to propose that another gun and ammunition amnesty “be offered to the nation for a short period.
“Let me just say that a gun and amnesty programme is a period for non-prosecution that allows people to surrender their illegal firearms or unregistered firearms without fear of legal jeopardy or being charged or prosecuted.
“This amnesty therefore is directed to two distinct sets of people. Firstly, those who know that they are in possession of illegal firearms or ammunition, and secondly, those who are perhaps innocent custodians of a weapon, or component of ammunition and possibly even unsure as to its legal status but are too frightened to do anything about it.”
The national security minister, flanked by Commissioner of Police, Daniel Carbon, said illegal firearms and ammunition can be surrendered at any police station.
He said following the amnesty, the Roosevelt Skerrit administration will go to Parliament to amend the existing legislation.
“Once this [amnesty] period has expired the government will go to Parliament and it will significantly strengthen our gun and bail act. Close every loophole [and] thereafter if you are found with an illegal firearm or ammunition you will go to jail for a minimum of five years.
“If you use an illegal firearm thereafter to hurt somebody…or God forbid kill somebody, you will wait in jail until the trial date of the case,” Blackmoore said.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Skerrit urged illegal firearm holders to turn in their guns to the police with the island recording 12 murders so far this year.
“The police are taking a zero-tolerance to these things and I want to urge people who have illegal firearms to make a way in getting it to the police. The police can facilitate you in getting it to them.”
Skerrit said the police have been working with some groups to get illegal firearms off the streets.
“I have said to many people that when you have a firearm you always run the risk of using it and when you sell it you will be selling it to someone who will come back and kill you, or kill your mother, or kill your brother,” Skerrit said, adding “and so, the possession and the trading of firearms is not for a country like Dominica. It is too small for this.”
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