The New Today
Local News

No bail for illegal firearm holders

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell – introduced the gun amnesty legislation in Parliament (Photo credit: Dwain Thomas the official photographer to Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell)

Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dickon Mitchell has made an impassionate plea to Grenadians with illegal firearms in their possession to hand them over during an amnesty period being granted by the 21-month old National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration.

The Grenadian leader was at the time addressing Tuesday’s sitting of Parliament in which he piloted a bill to amend the Firearms Act to permit the Minister of National Security to grant an amnesty from Prosecution of persons who during the period of the amnesty are found to be in possession of illegal firearms.

“The issue of illegal firearms is a vexing and troubling one and has the potential and ability to significantly derail and destroy our peaceful way of life and our socio-economic development,” he said.

The Prime Minister told legislators that the intention is to encourage persons during the 90 day period of the amnesty to hand over the illegal arms and ammunition to the police.

He said these illegal firearm holders can surrender the weapon anonymously, as well as to their attorney-at-law, who will be permitted to then hand them over to the police station.

According to Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, the Commissioner of Police will be authorised to designate the places where the firearms are to be handed over, and who is the designated officer in the force that it should be handed over to.

He pointed out that the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) has designated an enormous amount of time and effort to taking off the streets unlawful and illegal firearms.

He provided statistics to show that 13 illegal firearms were confiscated by the police in 2019, 10 in 2020 even when the country was affected by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, a further 4 weapons in the following year, eleven illegal weapons in 2022 and in 2023, the figure rose to 30 illegal firearms.

The Prime Minister indicated that for the first 3 months of 2024, the police have already confiscated about 10 to eleven illegal firearms.

Overall, he said a total of 68 illegal firearms were recovered by the police during the 2019-23 period.

Some of the weapons confiscated range from 9MM pistols to Smith and Wesson .44 pistol, the Glock-17 pistol, Taurus, Colt revolver, the 12 gauge Remington, Magnum shotgun, the Beretta, and a semi-automatic pistol.

The Prime Minister told Parliament during the weekend of February 19 when the three prisoners from Paradise in St Andrew escaped from the South St George Police Station and killed the two Americans on board their yacht, the police force recovered 3 firearms – 1 in Grand Anse and two in the 4-Roads area.

Two weeks later, he said the lawmen retrieved an illegal weapon in the Telescope area in the St Andrew South-east constituency and less than a week ago in Fontenoy in the St George North-west constituency.

The Prime Minister revealed that between 2022 and 2023, the police arrested and charged 78 persons for possession of illegal firearms and with firearms-related offences.

He expressed concern that in several instances, these firearms were confiscated in public places like during the recent incident at the Vendor’s Market at Grand Anse where the gunman was caught on a public minibus vehicle during a police roadblock.

He said the United States is a primary source for the supply of the illegal firearms coming into Grenada but that a lot of them also came from St Vincent, Trinidad and as far north as Jamaica.

He said that during the amnesty period which was referred to as “a soft approach” in the beginning, it is the intention of the government “to embark upon an aggressive campaign of education particularly among our young men to discourage them from seeing firearms as something that is sexy or something that is mature or something that makes you feel you are the bigger man.”

Related:  A new era for investment migration in Grenada

“We want to have a period of respite where persons who have gotten the message and understand that this is not a life to pursue, that there is no upside in having a firearm….,” he said.

“…We want to give them the opportunity to come forward and to surrender the firearm and the ammunition without the risk of a prosecution,” he added.

PM Dickon Mitchell warned that “stiffer penalties and longer sentences” will become the order of the day after the amnesty period has ended.

He announced that after the amnesty has come to an end, the government intends to go back to Parliament to further amend the firearm act “to significantly increase the minimum penalties for firearms, ammunition and firearms-related crimes.”

Opposition Member of Parliament for the Town of St George, Peter David who is an attorney-at-law by profession and often represents persons charged with possession of illegal arms and ammunition agreed that the issue of gun violence “is a very serious one” in Grenada.

Labelling the move to institute a firearms amnesty as “a positive step” by the government, however, he said that some kind of incentive should be given to entice these people to surrender their weapon.

He feared that a person who bought a gun illegally for $3000.00 “will not just come and surrender it.”

“I do not believe that this alone … will work,” he said.

MP David believes it is a difficult proposition to get owners of illegal weapons “to just voluntarily hand it over thereby reducing the amount of guns in the streets.”

“We should not be too optimistic that that alone (the promise not to take criminal action during the amnesty period will work).”

The former Minister of Agriculture noted that in some places like New York, the approach by the authorities is to “buy back” the illegal weapon to get as many guns off the street.

The MP for the Town indicated that over the years, he has been able to get some of his clients to surrender their illegal weapons for him to hand into the police.

He said he has often struck a deal with some of these people to represent them free in court once they hand over the illegal firearm to him.

Government backbencher Ron Redhead who is the Member of Parliament for the Constituency of St George North-east disagreed with David on the issue of giving financial incentives to get the criminal elements to surrender their illegal weapons.

He said there will be no financial incentives for the surrender of the illegal weapons as the government cannot encourage law-breakers “to cash in on taxpayers’ money and in the process benefit after they have “illegally obtained this.”

According to the former Minister of Youth and Sports, he feared that a money incentive can empower them to do other things with the money given the close relationship with guns and drugs.

MP Redhead said that after the amnesty period is over, anyone found in possession of an illegal firearm will not be allowed to get bail in a court of law and will be subjected to mandatory jail time at the Richmond Hill prison.

If you are satisfied with the information provided by The New Today to our many readers, followers and supporters around the world, then you can show your appreciation by making a financial contribution to the effort of our team of dedicated workers.

Giving back is a way of saying thank you for our efforts

Support The New Today