Jail for possession of unlicenced firearm

By Elesha George
elesha.george@antiguaobserver.com

The Government has moved one step closer to imposing stricter penalties for persons convicted of unlicenced firearm possession.

Yesterday, the Lower House approved several amendments to the Firearms Act, all of which carry a minimum of two years mandatory imprisonment, if a person is found in possession of illegal firearms or ammunition.
Before the Act was amended, judges and magistrates could have imposed fines of up to $25,000 for gun crimes and possession of illegal firearms.

The Bill with its amendments was passed unopposed, and will now have to be debated in the Upper House.
The passage of the bill was stalled on Tuesday, after parliamentarians were unable to agree on one of the changes related to the confiscation and nonpayment of fees for licenced firearm holders.

However, they managed to reach agreement yesterday with Attorney General and Public Safety Minister Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin telling his parliamentary colleagues: “We ought not to put somebody who already had a licence in the same position as a potential criminal, as someone who never had one.”

Section (4) Subsection 6 (5) which speaks to Licenced Firearm Holders will state “notwithstanding the provision of Subsection (1), the holder of Firearms User Licence, who fails to renew the licence when it becomes due, is liable to the following penalty if they fail to renew the same: (a) Up to three months, $500; (b) for a period exceeding three months but not exceeding six months, $750; (c) for a period exceeding six months but not exceeding 12 months, $1,500; (d) for any period exceeding 12 months, the firearm and ammunition may be confiscated and the holder liable on summary conviction, to a fine of $2,500.”

The attorney general said people who fall under this category will not serve prison time but instead “A licence firearms holder is given up to one year to get his licence renewed“.

However, that licence can be revoked at the discretion of the Police Commissioner.

The House also agreed to have Section 10 (1) of the Firearms Act stand as part of the amended bill. That section speaks to the illegal rental and selling of firearms and ammunition. Those convicted of such an offence will no longer face a fine of $15,000 but mandatory imprisonment.

(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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