Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite is sticking to his guns on the issue of an amnesty, despite recent shocking photographs on social media showing a group of young men brandishing high-powered weapons.
A rise in gun-related crimes has led to frequent calls for a gun amnesty and in September 2014 Brathwaite revealed that he had discussed such a possibility with Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith as they explored effective means to get illegal firearms off the streets and reduce gun crimes.
“There is a school of thought that gun amnesties don’t work. Others say that we should [have it]. I have said that I’ll have someone do the research and make a determination,” the minister said at the time.
However, he has maintained that an amnesty would not work because Government could not afford to waive prosecution in every case for people turning in firearms.
He has also said that the authorities needed to maintain the right to prosecute, or at least follow up the leads by talking to people handing over weapons in cases where these weapons had been used in the commission of crimes.
Brathwaite reiterated his position this afternoon, telling Barbados TODAY he relied on the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to guide him on policy and they were not keen on a gun amnesty.
“Police still have to ask questions if a gun is brought in . . . and have to do tests of the guns. Added to that there is no guarantee that people are going to turn in their guns,” Brathwaite said.
Howver, expressing concerns about the recent photographs, the Attorney General said the fact that these men saw nothing wrong with showing their faces while displaying guns was proof of the seriousness of the illegal firearms problem here.
“The challenge the police now have is identifying these individuals and recovering the guns if they are real,” Brathwaite said, while calling for a collective effort by the authorities and the general public to defeat the scourge.
The Attorney General, who has responsibility for the RBPF, emphasized that there were laws against possession and use of illegal weapons and the police needed to intensify enforcement of these laws.
“The penalties are there, they are harsh; all it needs now is for the police to continue working hard to identify the sources of the guns.”
Emphasizing that illegal guns were linked to illicit drugs, Brathwaite said he had asked the National Council on Substance Abuse to go into various communities to help raise awareness among young people of the dangers of illegal drugs.
The minister also expressed concern about the number of young people involved in gangs, linking it to the lack of employment opportunities.
“We must invest more money in training and identifying more opportunities where young people can find employment,” suggested the administration’s chief legal advisor.
Brathwaite also pointed to breakdown in moral values and a fractured social system, insisting that people did not have to go to church or read the Bible in order to do the right thing.
The Minister of Home Affairs also weighed in on the video circulating on social media which clearly shows students of the Daryll Jordan secondary school behaving in an unruly manner, shouting “bup bup bup” and “bap bap bap” to the sound of music, while egging on a ZR driver, moments before the vehicle apparently overturned.
An angry Brathwaite was adamant that public service vehicle [PSV] drivers who continued to flout the law ought to be taken off the road.
“The only way to deal with the bad behaviour and the reckless driving by these ZRs on the roads is to withdraw their permits. We need some drastic, and I mean drastic action, including making the owners feel the full force of the law by withdrawing their permits,” Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY.
He said even though some drivers of the state-owned Transport Board buses were also guilty of misconduct on the roads, instances involving them were neither as frequent nor as outrageous as some PSVs.
He also contended that some schools had behavioural issues, especially in relation to the students’ use of public transport. “We have to take another hard look at these schools to see what is wrong. I saw the minutes of one school where 35 persons [students] from that school were suspended,” the minister pointed out.