Jamaica Observer: KINGSTON, By Romardo Lyons – Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Saturday sent a firm message to criminals wreaking havoc across the country and the people facilitating them with shipments of illegal guns that the State will arrest and prosecute them.

“As of now, no one in Jamaica should have an illegal firearm. We have been giving you warnings about this. If you are caught with an illegal firearm, if you are dealing in firearms, if you are trafficking illegal firearms, if you are using illegal firearms, you will face very harsh punishment,” Holness said in an address to the Young Jamaica Area Council One conference at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) headquarters on Belmont Road in St Andrew.

Young Jamaica is a youth affiliate of the ruling JLP.

Stating that the Government has been working “very closely” with United States authorities to put an end to gun importation, Holness said, “Those people who are putting the guns in the barrels, I tell you, I am working on that element. We are going to get some of those people who are disassembling the guns and putting them into the rice bag, putting them into the soap, and sending them in the barrels. We are going to get you.”

He said new legislation will be passed soon that will robustly attack the gun culture which poses a serious threat to Jamaica’s development.

“The people who think they are importing guns and we don’t know… we are gathering the evidence, putting the case together and we are putting it before the court. You are not hearing us out there running up our mouth and saying all kinds of things; we are serious about treating with this gun issue,” he said.

“When the new legislation is passed, find a way to turn over the gun to the police. We might even give you some amnesty, because we are going to make it unprofitable for you to have an illegal firearm,” he said.

He argued that the circumstances of each specific case cannot be used as basis for judgement, and clarified that he wasn’t making “any commentary” on the judicial system.

“But what we need to be clear on is that there must be a disincentive and a deterrent for the youngster who goes to school, play gun war, see his brother with a real gun and decides that he wants one as well and goes and gets one,” Holness said.

“That system must change, and you have to therefore put in place strong measures, including a legislative process, that changes the risk reward of owning a firearm and the interdiction and enforcement system,” he continued.

Holness pointed to the ‘Get Every Illegal Gun’ campaign launched earlier this year, which was used to strengthen efforts against the illicit importation of guns through the country’s ports.

Earlier this year, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang had credited improved technological solutions and increased collaboration between the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Customs Agency, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency, and the Jamaica Defence Force for successes in the campaign.

The Government said a reward system is embedded in the campaign under which between $250,000 and $500,000 is paid out for illegal weapons.

“People don’t listen carefully when I speak. If you recall early in the year when we launched the Get Every Illegal Gun campaign, and then I said we are going to target the big fish; and then I tell you we are changing the law; so I have been giving people warning… I don’t want anybody bawling. You have been given warning and you are seeing it materialise before your eyes,” Holness said.

Top Feature Photo: Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressing the Young Jamaica Area Council One conference at the Jamaica Labour Party headquarters on Belmont Road in St Andrew on Saturday – Joseph Wellington