MINIMUM 30 YEARS FOR GUNS - Chamber of Commerce head wants stronger punishment for crimes involving illegal firearms

January 19, 2022

Ian Neita, the president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), is proposing that persons convicted of firearm-related offences be sentenced to a minimum of 30 years imprisonment.

His call comes against the background of a rise in murders, most of which involved the use of an illegal gun.

Statistics published by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) show that 72 murders have been recorded in Jamaica in the first 15 days of the new year. In addition, there have been 44 incidents of shooting.

"I don't know if it [the existing sentencing guideline] is a deterrent or not, but in manifestation, what we're seeing now is they [offenders] are ignoring it completely. With the new trend with the murder for hire, that brings a different realm to the whole matter of gun crimes," Neita told THE STAR yesterday.

"Now, when you have gang warfare, people killing people over turf, that is one thing. When people are holding up themselves to kill people who they don't know, you looking into a different realm. So you have to then take that into consideration when you looking at penalties for illegal possession [of firearm] because invariably, that murder for hire, that hit job is going to be carried out with an illegal weapon," the JCC president added.

Under the Firearms Act, a person found guilty of being in possession of an illegal firearm is liable to be sentenced to a maximum of life imprisonment. However, the normal range of sentences are between seven and 15 years.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has signalled that his administration will soon table a new firearms bill in Parliament, which will propose stronger penalties for the possession of illicit weapons.

"These guns don't join church. They are used indiscriminately," the prime minister said.

Last November, Holness, speaking at the annual conference of the Jamaica Labour Party, which he leads, said that the death penalty should be a consideration for the possession of illegal firearms.

Parliament in 2010 passed amendments to The Firearms (Amendment) Act, 2010 to impose a minimum sentence of 15 years for a person convicted of certain firearms offences. However, minimum sentences have been frowned upon by the courts. In addition, several persons have been able to get discounted sentences under the Criminal Justice Administration Act, if they plead guilty to the offences for which they have been charged.

Neita said that lawmakers must act quickly and decisively to a send strong message to the criminals.

"We have to let them know that we are going to do everything to ensure that they are caught and punished properly," Neita stressed.

Illegal guns recovered

2021 - 703

2020 - 625

2019 - 666

2018 - 720

Illegal ammunition recovered

2021 -9925

2020 - 8790

2019 -14312

2018 - 11229

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