Gov’t introduces stiffer penalties for gun and ammunition offences

People who insist on running afoul of the country’s gun laws will now face much harsher penalties.

Rather than being an attempt to lock away young men in particular, Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew, the mover of the Firearms Amendment Bill 2024, said he hopes the revised legislation will serve as a deterrent for those who possess illegal guns and ammunition or persist in committing gun crimes.

The prime minister made the remarks in the National Assembly on Thursday after announcing a 15 day long amnesty on guns and ammunition.

 “The time has come for us to make a profound shift, and I want to say to the young men, if you are in possession of an illegal firearm or ammunition, if you are harbouring such items for others, if thoughts of wielding a gun cross your mind, the moment for transformation is now.

“If this bill is successful today, Madame Speaker, I will implement a gun amnesty that will take effect tomorrow, Friday, May 10th, 2024 and end 15 days after on Saturday, May 25th 2024.”

He continued, however, that those who choose not to take advantage of the opportunity to turn a fresh page will face the full force of the law.

“I want to remind them that if this bill is successfully passed, from tomorrow, if you are found with an illegal automatic weapon, and caught importing one, you can spend 40 years of your life in prison and receive a fine of EC$500,000.00,” said Prime Minister Drew. 

Drew said while his government will act decisively to protect the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, this will be tempered with fairness. He reaffirmed that those who are implicated in gun crimes following the amnesty will be given their day in court within a reasonable time.

Previously, the penalty for “high level” firearm offences involving automatic weapons was a jail term of 15 years. This has now been inceased to 40 years and a maximum fine of $500,000.00.

Offences involving non-automatic firearms have been increased from 15 years to 30 years and the fine set at $250,000.00.

The Magistrates’ Court will have the authority to preside over most non-automatic firearm offences and impose sentences of up to 15 years and fines of $100,000.00.

The Director of Public Prosecution will have the descretion to decide whether lesser offences are sent to the Magistrates’ Court or, in the case of gang related crimes, are refered to the High Court.

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