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Government announces one month gun amnesty to surrender illegal firearms and ammunition

Rayburn Blackmoore

In a concerted effort to address the pressing issue of illegal firearms and related criminal activities, the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica is launching a one-month Gun and Ammunition Amnesty set to commence on October 1, to October 31, 2023.

Minister of National Security, Rayburn Blackmoore made the announcement at a press conference during which time he emphasized that this initiative is part of the government’s ongoing commitment to ensure the safety and security of Dominica’s citizenry.

According to Blackmoore, over the years, substantial strides have been made to enhance the capabilities of the police force to include training, equipment provision, and active policing plans in an effort to rid the streets of illegal firearms. The Minister further averred that legislative changes have also been introduced to impose stricter penalties and a broader range of consequences for those found in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.

“However, the fight against illegal firearms and the use of those firearms to cause harm and bring death to others is not one that can be fought by the authorities alone,” he stressed, adding that while remaining vigilant, the government aims to adopt innovative strategies to curtail and discourage the use of illegal firearms.

“Some of the ways that we have already begun to tackle this problem is through more robust policing techniques and review of legislation through the engagement of a consultant drafter. The Government is now adding to these measures a Gun and Ammunition Amnesty that will commence from October 1, 2023, and end on October 31, 2023,” Blackmoore revealed.

The firearm and ammunition amnesty, which echoes a similar initiative offered in 2007, will, according to the minister, encourage individuals in possession of illegal weapons or ammunition to surrender them without fear of legal repercussions.

The amnesty is directed at two distinct groups of people Blackmoore said, namely “those who know they are in possession of illegal weapons or ammunition and secondly those who are perhaps innocent custodians of a weapon or ammunition and possibly even unsure as to its legal status, but too frightened to do anything about it.”

“Now is your opportunity to surrender these illegal firearms and to play your part in making Dominica safer for all of us,” he declared. “Loss of life particularly young men, has become a national problem and so we must act now. Therefore, if you are aware that your loved one or friend has an illegal firearm and ammunition, encourage them to surrender these items.”

Surrendering illegal firearms and ammunition during the amnesty can be done at any police station across the island. After the amnesty period concludes, the government intends to strengthen gun and bail acts significantly, closing existing loopholes.

The National Security Minister further emphasized that those found with illegal firearms or ammunition will face a minimum jail term of five years. Furthermore, if an illegal firearm is used to cause harm, robbery, or, tragically, to take a life, the individual will remain in jail until the trial concludes.

Reflecting on the existing laws related to gun crimes, the Minister acknowledged the need for a comprehensive review.

As a result, former Attorney General Anthony Laronde, a distinguished legal draftsman, has been enlisted to review relevant laws, including the Firearms Act and the Bail Act. The objective is to ensure that the law and sanctions are proportionate to the severity of the crimes committed.