The illegal importation of multiple firearms for distribution or resale will carry a penalty of imprisonment for the remainder of a culprit’s natural life under the Firearms (Amendment) Bill which was passed in the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill was passed with amendments with support from Government and Independent senators. The Opposition voted against it. The bill required only a simple majority vote for passage and could have been passed without Opposition votes.
The bill will next be debated in the Lower House, likely after the upcoming Parliament recess.
On Tuesday, the Upper House was adjourned to a date to be fixed.
In Tuesday’s debate, National Security Minister Stuart Young appealed to Independents and Opposition to send a strong message by voting for the bill to show T&T’s “pushback” against illegal guns.
The bill particularly targets repeat offenders.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the bill’s passage was a victory for Government and the public. While imprisonment for life normally meant a period of years, the amended penalty now means the rest of one’s natural life.
Other clauses which carried the initial penalty of “imprisonment for life” were also amended to “imprisonment for the remainder of natural life”, particularly for people facing a third conviction.
The “life” penalty extends to those enabling a person to possess an illegal firearm to endanger life and cause serious injury to property whether any injury to person/property has been caused or not.
It also applies to people who have two previous convictions for certain offences and are faced with a third. That penalty is also for those selling/transferring firearms and ammunition to a person who does not hold it or is not exempted from holding a Firearm Users’ Licence and if the culprit is facing a third offence.
The manufacture of prohibited weapons carries a $1m fine and 15 years’ jail for a first offence (summary) and on indictment, life in prison on a third conviction.
The use of a firearm or imitation firearm in the commission of any offence or with intent to resist detention carries a 25-year jail term on indictment.
Reporter: Gail Alexander