By Latrishka Thomas
If you know someone who is in possession of an unlicensed firearm you could be rewarded EC$5000.00 for providing the police with that information.
And if you surrender your own guns and ammunition, you will not be charged.
That is according to Minister of Legal Affairs, Steadroy Benjamin, who says that as of August 1st, the government’s gun amnesty programme will take effect.
Benjamin told Observer that on July 14, the Cabinet “agreed that an amnesty of illegal firearms and reward for information on illegal firearms should commence on August 1st.”
And that programme will run for the next three months.
“Persons who take in their firearms will do so and no charges will be made against those individuals. We just want to get the firearms off the street. In addition to that, persons who have information on individuals having [unlicensed] firearms in their possession must provide this information to the police, and once it leads to the recovery of illegal firearms, a reward of EC$5000.00 will be paid to the person who gives the police that information,” the Minister detailed further.
The gun amnesty programme was last instituted in 2017 to curb the use of unlicensed firearms in Antigua and Barbuda. It allowed for members of the public to provide information to the relevant authorities about anyone who was in illegal possession of the identified categories of guns and ammunition, with no questions asked and no charges brought.
Now, with the rise in gun violence in the country, the government is looking at measures to mitigate against gun crimes which are especially being committed by young people aged 14 to 23.
A few weeks ago, Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney said that while the gun amnesty initiative had not garnered the type of support that lawmen had expected over the years, they have no plans of doing away with it.
Instead, they are adding and increasing other activities such as patrolling the streets.
The constabulary is also hoping to add 50 new recruits to the force.
There are presently several matters involving the use of firearms that are still under investigation.
A reward of EC$25,000 is still on the table for anyone who can provide the police with credible information leading to the arrests of perpetrators of recent robberies and shootings.