Govt goes after gun offenders, hefty fines, jail terms proposed

Wednesday, July 3, 2019 - 06:15

A ma­jor push-back on “shoot­ers” and il­le­gal firearms.

That’s what Gov­ern­ment’s Firearms (Amend­ment) Bill, 2019 is in­tend­ed to serve as, ac­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young.


“When this law is ap­plied it will stop them in their tracks,” he added dur­ing yes­ter­day’s Sen­ate de­bate on the bill.

The bill par­tic­u­lar­ly tar­gets re­peat of­fend­ers re­gard­ing pos­ses­sion of il­le­gal guns.

For the first of­fence, a penal­ty of $250,000 and 10 years jail has been pro­posed, con­vic­tion on a sec­ond of­fence car­ries a 20-year jail term and life in jail for a third.

Young urged Op­po­si­tion and In­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors to pass the land­mark leg­is­la­tion and send a sig­nal peo­ple that the pos­ses­sion of an il­le­gal firearm was un­ac­cept­able.

He said out of the 255 mur­ders for this year so far, 207 were com­mit­ted with il­le­gal firearms - and eight out of 10 crim­i­nals ar­rest­ed car­ry Glock hand­guns.

The bill on­ly re­quires a sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty vote for pas­sage and not a spe­cial ma­jor­i­ty in­volv­ing Op­po­si­tion or In­de­pen­dent votes.

At 8.15 last night, the Sen­ate went in­to Com­mit­tee stage where the 28 claus­es were be­ing ex­am­ined.

Af­ter be­ing pi­lot­ed last month, the Sen­ate de­bate was Gov­ern­ment’s first “try” with the bill. It is yet to be at­tempt­ed in the Low­er House.

Young said Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley and At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi ini­tial­ly did not want to give him the “green light” on the pro­posed law but when they heard him de­tail the sit­u­a­tion and sta­tis­tics re­gard­ing gun crimes, they told him to “run hard and get it done.”

The min­is­ter said the bill fol­lowed long dis­cus­sions with Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith on the il­le­gal weapons used by gangs and in­di­vid­u­als. He not­ed there are re­peat of­fend­ers and there are “shoot­ers” out there.

“The Com­mis­sion­er said so and when he was asked what he was do­ing about it, he gave the right an­swer: you have to con­vert in­tel­li­gence and in­for­ma­tion to ev­i­dence,” he said.

He added that cur­rent­ly re­peat of­fend­ers can go to court, plead guilty for pos­ses­sion of an il­le­gal firearm and the max­i­mum sen­tence they were pay­ing was $15,000.

“How could this be a de­ter­rent?” he said, sug­gest­ing cul­prits were laugh­ing at that penal­ty.

He said the in­tel­li­gence he gets on avail­abil­i­ty of il­le­gal firearms scares him.

“One of the sim­plest and most ef­fec­tive hand­guns glob­al­ly is a Glock. It used to be a prized pos­ses­sion for crim­i­nals. Every sin­gle cul­prit, eight out of 10 crim­i­nals picked up now, car­ries a Glock,” he said

Young said the gun can car­ry 15 rounds and an­oth­er in the cham­ber, fea­tur­ing an easy trig­ger to pull. He not­ed crim­i­nals have ex­tend­ed mag­a­zines - which can car­ry 33 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion.

“The dam­age you can do with that...and it can be con­vert­ed to au­to­mat­ic. Every lit­tle crim­i­nal out there right now car­ries’s a war out there - lit­er­al­ly a war. We must not al­low T&T’s so­ci­ety to be­come like Ja­maica’s where there are places where the po­lice can­not go,” he said.

Young said he had heard the Com­mis­sion­er say it took six years to do bal­lis­tic tests and there was a back­log. But he said the T&T Po­lice Ar­moury was help­ing to clear the back­log and of­fi­cers at the Foren­sic Sci­ence Cen­tre had as­sured what­ev­er was need­ed as a pri­or­i­ty by the Com­mis­sion­er would be fast-tracked

Young said a man was shot out­side of his con­stituen­cy of­fice and he had seen youth with a gun in his waist­band in East Port-of-Spain. While he agreed there was no sin­gle ac­tion to erad­i­cate crime, every coun­try in the world has it. He said the Bill had to be “mar­ried” with oth­er pieces of leg­is­la­tion to work.

Reporter: Gail Alexander