The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) is being warned that after the proposed gun amnesty concludes on Sunday, April 14, it cannot be business as usual as the country faces a potentially record-breaking number of murders in 2019.
Orville Durant, who served as police commissioner from 1982 to 1995 and who presided over the force during the 1983 implementation of a six-month gun amnesty told Barbados TODAY that such decisions must be followed by hard-hitting police action.
“Gun amnesties must always be followed by very tough police action. If you institute a gun amnesty and there is no tough police action, you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for. It must be followed by very firm police action,” said Durant in a brief telephone interview.
The recent decision follows 21 murders this year with a firearms being used as the weapon of choice in 12 of them.
The last gun amnesty, which was instituted in November of 1998, followed an increase in crime where the number of persons to die by the gun moved from one in 1997 to seven at the end of September the following year.
The gun amnesty recovered close to 200 illegal guns in a three-week period. In that same year, the fine for possession of an illegal weapon increased from a maximum of $2,500 to $75,000 and the time in prison from 12 months to 25 years.
Of Tuesday’s announcement of the gun amnesty by Attorney General Dale Marshall, Durant said he would reserve judgment on the timing of the decision as such a stance is always based on police intelligence.
“I am not going to tell you, because that is an operational matter which the police should be free to employ as they see fit and I cannot compare 30 years to now.”
Defending the decision, he however said, “Police don’t just jump out of their beds one day and decide they want a gun amnesty. They decide based on the kind of intelligence that they have. Some of the intelligence is pretty well known in the society, but it is also based on specific circumstances that they are aware of, so we shouldn’t pre-judge them.
“If the climate is right for very serious action, then so be it, but you’ve got to be very careful when you’re taking that kind of action, because generally speaking, a gun amnesty is a very serious police step and that’s what the attorney general said when he said ‘gloves will be off.’ So we’ll wait and see what kind of action they take,” said the former top cop.
During his strong message in Parliament on Tuesday, Marshall warned criminals not to test government’s “resolve”, declaring that gunmen would not be allowed to hold the country at ransom.
“Our mission is to get the guns off the streets. This is not something that we can be flippant about. A Government is elected for the purpose of protecting citizens not to coddle criminals.
“We are here to protect the lives, livelihoods and interest of the majority of people ten or 15 hoodlums will mash up our country . . . Do not test our resolve,” warned Marshall.
Supporting the AG’s decision, Durant said: “The circumstances which warrant a gun amnesty depend on the position of the attorney general and the government, but governments do it based on the climate at the time.
“Anything like a gun amnesty is the result of a political decision. It might be on the recommendation of the police commissioner, but its implementation and how it is brought into effect will depend on all of the circumstances and all of the information available to the police,” concluded the former commissioner,” he said.