During the island wide two-week gun amnesty, more than 90 firearms and over 2,500 rounds of ammunition were turned over to the police, according to Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness.
PM Holness expressed astonishment at the number of weapons received, whilst also noting that the island still has thousands of illicit firearms. This was addressed at the 79th annual conference of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) inside the National Arena on Sunday, where it was indicated that anyone who chose not to take advantage of the amnesty nor heeded the warnings, would suffer the consequences.
On Sunday, a day before the gun amnesty officially ended, the PM again petitioned persons to hand over illegal firearms. This comes following the implementation of the new Firearms Act which went into effect in October and will be fully enforced against individuals who own use, and traffic in firearms. Sentencing for violating this law ranges from 15 years to life in prison.
During the conference, he also declared that the government “will not bow to any group” while passing remarks about the taxi operators who protested for a traffic ticket amnesty last Monday. The tactics used by the protestors were withdrawing their services and enforcing their strike on others who were less willing, which impeded the pedestrians. Holness indicated that the protest was “unlawful, disorderly,” and not in “the public’s interest.”
Holness also touched on the topic of the high crime rate in the country, where he remarked that the JLP would not tolerate the over 1,000 murders that occur annually “in a free and democratic society.” He stated that the high murder rate threatened society’s freedom and democracy and that there was an urgent need for “emergency powers to protect the right to life of law-abiding citizens from the lawless and marauding few” in society.
To extend the state of emergency (SOE) that was announced to have taken effect on Tuesday over seven parishes, Holness urged the parliamentary opposition to support the newly announced crime-fighting strategy. Certain implementations of this are that the government may only declare an SOE for a maximum of two weeks at a time; future extensions of up to three months require parliamentary approval.
However, the opposition has indicated that it will not be backing the extension, citing cases currently in court, legal issues, and an overreliance by the Holness administration on the security measure, among other things.