Friday, 09 September 2022 13:09

House of Representatives approves new Firearms Act

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Legislation containing more stringent gun control measures in Jamaica was approved on Wednesday evening in the House of Representatives.
 The Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act received support from both sides of the chamber and was passed without amendments.
The legislation comprises harsher penalties for offences connected to the illicit trade, manufacture, stockpiling, possession and use of illegal guns.
The government is hoping that the new law will be a strong deterrent to criminals.
National Security Minister Dr. Horace Chang, who closed the debate on Wednesday night, said that the Bill will be tabled in the Senate on Friday.
He expects debate to get underway in the Upper House in coming weeks.
During Wednesday's debate, Opposition Leader Mark Golding said, while he has concerns about aspects of the Bill, there was need to support it. 
For the opposition not to support the legislation, he said, "it would have to cross a serious bar of being objectionable". 
Mr. Golding said he continues to have "major concerns" regarding how the law will work in practice, its impact on the court system in relation to justice issues and the "constitutionality of the usurpation of the proper province of the judiciary in sentencing".
However, he noted that "the fact that there is a safety valve in the 2015 Act, which amended the Criminal Justice Act, is significant" and this has led him to support the new legislation. 
The National Security Minister said the new law will be constantly reviewed over a period of seven years. 
Gun amnesty 
The government has signalled that a gun amnesty will be declared when the new Firearms Act is signed into law.
The amnesty will allow people in possession of illegal firearms the opportunity to surrender the weapons to the State, without the fear of prosecution.
Dr. Chang made the disclosure on Tuesday as he opened the debate on the legislation in the House of Representatives.
Clause 19 of the Bill gives the power to the minister to declare a firearms amnesty, by order, subject to affirmative resolution.
He said the gun amnesty will be accompanied by "a robust public education programme and an expansion of the Get the Guns programme".   
Dr. Chang warned that those who do not yield and give up their illegal firearms will "feel the full force" of the new law.    
Under the new firearms legislation, the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) will be established as a body corporate.
Dr. Chang said the lack of legal status of the FLA has presented a number of challenges for the members of the Board and the Chief Executive Officer, who are often required to respond in their individual capacities to legal claims and appeals with respect to firearm authorisations. 
New functions will be added to the responsibilities of the FLA.
These include establishing and maintaining a register of approved firearm brokers and their activities, the marking of firearms and conducting ballistic testing.
Last modified on Friday, 09 September 2022 13:31