Deputy PM uses personal experience to bolster his support of firearms bill


BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The Honourable Shawn Richards, deputy prime minister, joined cabinet colleagues in wishing safe passage of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill 2017 when he addressed the National Assembly June 14, drawing on his own personal experience as a victim of gun crime in order to strengthen his argument that tougher penalties are necessary to help deter individuals from using illegal firearms. 

According to a police press release, on the morning of March 10, 2017, multiple shots were fired at the Sandy Point home and personal vehicle of Richards. He and other family members were at home, but no one was injured.

“The gunshot, which came through the living room door, penetrated the couch in the living room on the armrest, went through the entire armrest and lodged in the cushion itself for that particular chair,” he said. “That is a chair from time to time I would lie down in [and] look at television. [Other people] would come and sit in that chair [and] look at television. Mr. Speaker, had circumstances been different and perhaps I had fell asleep in that chair or someone had been sleeping in that chair that morning, that person would have been the victim of that particular gunshot.”

Richards said the trauma associated with gun-related incidents remains with the victims for a very long time. “I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable lying down in that chair and sleeping in that chair because of what [could] have happened,” he said. “Each time you step out of your house, you’re very alert. Each time I get home, I’m very alert because that has been an experience – an experience that you never forget.”

Richards – who also serves as minister of education, youth, sports and culture –  said it is for that reason, first and foremost, why he strongly supports the Firearms (Amendment) Bill 2017.

 “I cannot come in here and not support this particular piece of legislation,” he said. “I have spoken about my own lived experience, but what of other[s] out there who have actually been the victims of gunshots in terms of being hit, Mr. Speaker[?] I am certain … that this legislation brings some level of comfort to those … knowing that the penalty is to be increased.”

 The deputy prime minister further noted that this piece of legislation, by itself, is not the solution to the country’s crime situation, “but we are saying to those who have been caught with illegal firearms that you must pay the price,” he said.