Introduction Of Harsher Penalties For Firearm-Related Offences Just One Step In The Government’s Comprehensive Approach To Arresting The Scourge Of Gun Violence

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Basseterre, St. Kitts – The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has made significant amendments to the Firearms Act, effectively introducing tougher penalties for persons convicted of the importation, possession and use of illegal firearms in the Federation. This forms part of the Government’s multi-faceted approach to deter the prevalence of gun-related crimes and to reduce the number of illegal weapons on the streets of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Firearms (Amendment) Bill, 2024, which was passed in the National Assembly on Thursday, May 09, 2024, substantively increased the maximum penalty for high-level firearm offences, such as the importation and possession of automatic weapons and offences involving shooting, from a maximum penalty of fifteen (15) years to forty (40) years of imprisonment and a fine of up to five hundred thousand dollars (EC$500,000). It also legislates the increase in penalty for normal firearm offences, such as importation and possession of non-automatic weapons, from a maximum of fifteen (15) years up to thirty (30) years and a fine of up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars (EC$250,000).

Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, the Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew, who moved the Bill in the National Assembly, noted however that increasing penalties for gun-related offences alone will not solve the problem. He instead noted that the legislative measures must work in tandem with aggressive policy initiatives to comprehensively address the issue.

“The Ministry of National Security is committed to the holistic solution to this problem by treating crime and violence as a public health issue. Treating crime as a public health issue offers a comprehensive approach that not only addresses the consequences of crime and violence but also focuses on the root causes, ultimately leading to much safer communities,” Dr. Drew said.

The prime minister noted that this approach to the issue means recognising that crime and violence are not isolated incidents but rather have far-reaching consequences that affect individuals and society. He noted that “Just as public health strategies are employed to prevent and manage diseases, a similar approach can and must be applied to prevent and manage crime and violence.”

A three-pronged approach has been identified to achieve this objective. It conceives disrupting the transmission of violence by means such as having credible influencers positively engage with persons involved in violent acts; preventing the secondary transmission of violence through the introduction of behaviour modification interventions to halt the progression of violence among those already exposed; and changing societal behaviour norms by championing policy initiatives aimed at fostering a culture of non-violence, robust education, economic independence, social justice and equity.

“I’ve worked assiduously over the last 21 months to ensure that the national security team has developed plans and has been provided with sufficient tools to change this culture of gangs and related gun violence which has developed over the decades in our country,” Prime Minister Dr. Drew
said.

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