A gun amnesty will be declared as soon as the new Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act is enacted, says Minister of National Security, Dr. Horace Chang.
This amnesty will allow persons who may be in possession of illegal firearms the opportunity to surrender these weapons to the State without the fear of prosecution.
Dr. Chang made the disclosure as he opened the debate on the legislation in the House of Representatives on September 6.
The Minister explained that Clause 19 of the Bill gives the power to the Minister to declare a firearms amnesty, by order, subject to affirmative resolution.
“The amnesty may be declared upon the Minister being satisfied that it may result in the reduction in the number of illegally possessed firearms or ammunition in the country,”
Dr. Chang argued. He said a public education campaign would also be undertaken along with expanding the get-the-guns programme.
Firearm amnesties have been used globally as an operational tool to reduce high levels of armed violence resulting from the proliferation of firearms and ammunition.
Examples of countries where successful amnesties have been employed are Australia and South Africa.
“This Administration will not relent. We must rid our country of illegal firearms and ammunition, and those who do not heed them will feel the full force of this new legislation with the strict and stringent penalty regime to be in effect,” Dr. Chang stated.
The Minister also informed that under the new legislation, the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) will be established as a corporate body.
He explained that as a corporate body, the Authority will have its own legal identity and will now be empowered to perform several activities, including entering into contracts in its own name, initiating and responding to legal claims, acquiring real and personal property, and using its own official seal.
“The lack of legal status of the FLA has presented a number of challenges for the members of the Board of Directors and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who are often required to respond to legal claims and appeals with respect to firearm authorisations, in their individual capacities. The Authority is also challenged in effectively carrying out its daily business operations,” Dr. Chang noted.
NEW FLA FUNCTIONS
Some new functions have been added to the responsibilities of the Authority, to include establishing and maintaining a register of approved brokers and their activities (since brokering has now been introduced as an activity); the marking of firearms, and maintaining records in relation to such marking; conducting ballistic testing, capturing ballistic signatures in relation to privately owned firearms, and capturing related information with respect to firearms that are the subject of authorisations granted by the Board.
Meanwhile, Dr. Chang said the Government is sensitive to what is happening on the ground, adding that “we know that illegal firearms are being used to cut down the lives of our young men”.
“This Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act, 2022 is intended to curb the murder projections and stem the tide of criminal violence in our country. We know that legislation alone will not reduce the level of homicides overnight,” he said.
“We are confident, however, that this piece of legislation presents a strong deterrent to persons who are involved in trafficking, diversion, manufacture, stockpiling and the movement of firearms, their parts, components and ammunition… and we will not apologise for that,” the Minister added.
He further stated that the legislation is an effective tool for the police who have been successfully apprehending and prosecuting, but the current system has become a revolving door for hardened criminals.