Slow response to gun amnesty

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Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, is disappointed at the slow response to the one-month arms amnesty which was launched on October 15.
Members of the public were offered the one-month period in which to turn over any illegal firearms, ammunition, imitation firearms, airguns, without being prosecuted. The amnesty also allows for members of the public to provide information to the relevant authorities about anyone, who has illegal possession of the identified categories of guns and ammunition.
However, the AG said, to date, only two firearms have been surrendered to the police.
“One is a .38 the other is a .25. But two firearms have been handed in so far. I wish through this medium to advise the citizens of this nation if there is a firearm, which you have in your possession which is not licensed, kindly return it to the police or before November 15,” Benjamin said.
He made the assurance that no criminal charges will be made and no questions would be asked.
The AG also revealed that a $20,000 reward is still available for the person who can provide any relevant information that may lead to the confiscation of any illegal firearms and ammunition from off the streets, as well as the successful prosecution of holders of illegal firearms and ammunition.
The Strategic Communi-cations Department of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda issued a statement this week reminding nationals that the amnesty period will end on November 15 and that the $20,000 reward is still on the table.
The police said the amnesty was imposed following a spate of gun-related crimes which were taking place within the country earlier this year.
The statement also noted that the law enforcement agency has also conducted several intelligence-driven operations and has been successful in removing some illegal firearms and ammunition from off the streets.
In appealing to the public to support their efforts the police gave the assurance that any information provided will be kept highly confidential.
The government’s effort to reduce the number of illegal weapons in the twin island state has been met with mixed reactions – some citizens and residents have expressed no confidence in the authorities who are overseeing the process while others have lauded the idea and effort.
A man who identified himself as a former gunman turned Christian, said, “I think it is a good idea to get the guns off the street but the more guns you get off the street is the more that comes in. After Hurricane Irma a shipment came in through the port.”
The same sentiment was expressed by another man who did not wish to be named. “We need to get all the guns off the street. It is a dangerous thing.”
A preschool teacher said she supports the programme although she does not think it would be enough to curtail crime in Antigua and Barbuda.
A young man, who wished to be referred to as Henry also said, “The programme is a good programme, but a lot of people will not go for it because people consider a gun as a form of protection.”

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