Government seeks to toughen legislation on gun-related crimes


BASSETERRE, St. KittsThe Team Unity administration seeks to impose stiffer penalties for people convicted of gun-related crimes, saying it represents “a major step in the fight against violent crimes, as the government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to roll out its broad-based response to stem the tide of violent crime, contain it and then reverse it over time,” notes its press release.

The Firearms (Amendment) Bill, which is being moved by the prime minister and minister of national security, the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris, seeks to “substantially increase the penalty for [people] convicted of gun-related offences.”

During his presentation to the National Assembly, Harris said the amendment to this bill represents one element of a “comprehensive response to the perennial problem of violence in our country [during] the period 1993 to present.” He further stressed that the recent statistics on gun-related crimes are clear indicators of the need for harsher penalties.

The [f]ederation in 2010, with respect to homicides, 85 percent of those were committed with the use of firearms,” he said.

In 2011, 91 percent; in 2012, 78 percent; in 2013, 76 percent; in 2014, 75 percent; in 2015, 89 percent; in 2016, 94 percent of the homicides were gun related and in 2017, 86 percent,” the prime minister stated, adding that the “use then of firearms in the commission of crimes, and in particular homicides, is worrisome and has been for some time.”

Section 2 of the said bill amend the penalty to be imposed by the judiciary for a range of offences under the substantive Act, and this as is now proposed will double the penalty to be exacted by the Judiciary,” he said. “The selection of punishment is an integral part of the administration of justice and we have to ensure that our norms and value systems are such that we ensure that the penalty matches the public perception and conception of the damage and injury to the society.”

Harris reiterated that “we must strive to create a society in which criminals have no hiding place.

More must be done by all of us,” he added. “The parents must offer no shelter, no support to those in their homes who are trading and using illegal firearms and ammunition. They must find no support in our churches, in our business places and they must find none in the political parties.