GEORGETOWN –– Time’s up! We’re now coming after you! That was how Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan summed up the end of the one-and-a-half-month amnesty for persons with illegal firearms and ammunition to turn them in.
With 175 weapons and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition turned in since September 1, when the amnesty started, the minister and the Guyana Police Force have described it as very successful.
Yesterday, the police received three sniper air rifles and a .38 revolver, as well as 55 .38s, 29 9mms and 31 .30 carbine ammunition.
According to the police figures, approximately 80 per cent of the weapons received are shotguns.
Now that the amnesty period is over, the law enforcement agencies will be relentlessly pursuing illegal weapons, which is one of the major strategies to halt a crime rate that was threatening to get out of control.
Last month, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo declared that there should be no discretion in imposing sentences under the law for persons found in illegal possession of firearms.
The prime minister, while lauding the success of the amnesty, had urged the country’s magistracy and judiciary to take judicial notice of the prevalence of crime involving the use of firearms and deal condignly with offenders.
“As a judicial officer, myself, I’m of the view that our courts must review granting of bail involving repeat offenders arraigned for illegal possession of firearms, or the use of firearms in the execution of robberies,” the prime minister stated.
Presently, the maximum penalty that can be imposed by a magistrate for the illegal possession of a firearm is five years.
Minister Ramjattan had warned of a crackdown to rein in all unlicensed firearms as soon as the amnesty would have ended.
On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud told a gathering that the Police Force did not expect criminals using firearms to rob persons as their only means of providing for themselves would turn in the firearms.
He also said that, similarly, it was not expected that drug traffickers and persons involved in organized crime and who use firearms to protect their interests would turn in the firearms.
However, the commissioner of police emphasized that the 171 firearms which had been turned in at the time could no longer get into the hands of persons with criminal intent, nor could they be used to harm persons in moments of anger.
A release from the Guyana Police Force stated that the organization saw the amnesty as a huge success.
“The intent of the amnesty was to have unlicensed firearms turned in to the police, and that is exactly what the programme has achieved,” the police statement said.