KINGSTON, Jamaica- Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he believes that criminals convicted for illegal possession of a firearm should be put to death for their sentence.
Holness made the announcement during his address at today’s Jamaica Labour Party (JLP’s) 78th first virtual annual conference.
“Anyone found with a gun [that is illegal] should start with the death penalty,” Holness stressed.
“That’s how strongly I feel about it…that’s how serious we should treat it.”
Adding that there needs to be stiffer penalties for those who import weapons, [those] who provide the weapons to the “killers” [and] who use them to intimidate people, Holness reiterated, “they should start at the highest level [the death penalty]. They shouldn’t get automatic plea bargaining. Those who perpetrate this should face the most severe consequence.”
According to the prime minister, the argument presented by some people who go on to receive relatively light sentences after successfully arguing that the gun is for their defence, must be rejected.
“We must have a movement to disarm Jamaica of illegal guns,” he declared.
Holness told the conference that the only way there should be a reduction in sentencing is if the person found with the illegal weapon offers up information about where the gun came from, how he or she got it and who sent it.
“As you give us information, you get a reduction in your sentence…we have wrestled with this because of the issue of the rights of the individual, even a criminal has rights,” he said.
Additionally, he highlighted that he had taken a personal interest in the Firearms Act, which is being amended, as the government looks to legislation to aid in the fight against crime. He went on to say that, his position is also against the background that guns are used in up to 80 percent of the murders committed in Jamaica each year.
“I wish it [the amendments to the Firearms Act] could be that draconian,” Holness said.
Regardless of whether or not the amendments to the Firearms Act are draconian, the Prime Minister said his Administration will do its best to signal that it will not tolerate illegal firearms in this country.
“I believe at the heart of the problem is the easy access to the gun…the problem that we have in Jamaica is the mass, unregulated inflow of unregistered light arms and weapons from post-war countries and from our big trading partners to the north,” he noted.
At the same time, Holness argued that these weapons arrive in Jamaica in exchange for drugs “or are sent in barrels with food to families to support internecine gang wars, for sport and ostentatious display”.
Holness also confirmed that guns are also used to support the control of “turf” with the ultimate impact of destabilizing the Jamaican state by the expression of the ultimate violence and taking lives.
He stressed that while he does not believe in the death penalty, he would make an exception where illegal firearms are concerned.
Among the other major legislation that will be enacted or amended to help rein in murders are the Enhanced Security Measures Bill, which Holness said should be ready in January.