Following a few recent high profile incidents involving firearms in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), including one fatality, Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF) Commissioner Farquhar consulted with Governor Todd, and Premier Ewing, to agree the following actions and proposals:
There is to be a gun amnesty in the TCI from 1 Jun-1Jul 2013, agreed with the Director of Public Prosecutions JoAnn Meloche. During this period, the RTCIPF will allow people to surrender any weapons to any Police Station or to pastors or church leaders who have participated in the firearm and weapon safe-handling training given by the RTCIPF.
Anyone wishing to take advantage of the amnesty must:
Contact the RTCIPF via 911 or 999 in advance advising of their intention to bring any weapons (guns, ammunition, knives, and similar items) to the police station or designated Pastor or church leader. Under certain conditions, it may be possible for Police to receive weapons and objects from residences or businesses.
Persons surrendering firearms will be advised about arrangements for a suitable time and manner in which to hand over the weapon(s).
Any person who voluntarily surrenders or discloses the location of any firearm, explosive, or ammunition during the amnesty period shall not be charged with any offence relating to illegal possession, custody or control of that firearm, explosive or ammunition.
No long-barrelled, high-powered guns, such as rifles, will be authorised, with the exception of legally owned shotguns. As there are no large game animals or predators on TCI, there is no justification for owning a hunting rifle. The only exemption is to be shotguns, in particular circumstances, with a valid ‘keep’ licence.
All existing ‘carry and keep’ licences with be reviewed by the end of this licence year (31 December 2013). In future, they will only be granted in exceptional and exigent circumstances, which will include a RTCIPF risk and/or threat assessment of the dangers to that person. The cost of a ‘keep and carry’ gun licence in the TCI is to be doubled to $800. There is no increase fee in the ‘keep’ only licence, which remains in most cases at $400, in order to promote honest, legal gun ownership. There is no need to carry a firearm on your person here in the TCI.
All gun owners must be members of the TCI Sporting Association (TCISA) or a similar responsible gun club, if practical. The RTCIPF has been in discussion with the TCISA as the RTCIPF believe that members of accredited gun clubs are more likely to practice and be proficient in the safe handling for their firearms, especially in a structured environment of meetings and practices. Persons with a ‘keep’ licence will be able to obtain a transport permit to travel to an approved firearm range.
There will be a review into the ordinance regarding the use of guns by security companies. The RTCIPF recognises that there is now a much more mature security industry in the TCI complete with armoured trucks and better-trained staff who could be used to move monies to and from a bank. Additionally, a cultural move from cash to using credit or debit cards along with increased use of security firms would reduce the need for gun ownership amongst businesspersons.
“It is clear that the Turks and Caicos Islands benefits from one of the lowest levels of crime anywhere in the Caribbean,” said Governor D.R. Todd, “A handful of high profile incidents involving firearms has genuinely alarmed many residents. Such perceptions must not be allowed to take root where they could potentially harm our long-term prosperity by putting tourists off from coming here on holiday. We are determined to get guns off our streets.
“This is why the Premier, Police Commissioner, and I have agreed to act. We must take action now to reassure our citizens to demonstrate guns have no place on our streets; to make gun ownership in the TCI exceptional; and to ensure the few guns permitted are managed in an extremely responsible manner. Guns are lethal weapons, not lifestyle accessories.”
Premier of the TCI, the Hon Dr Rufus Ewing added, “This is indeed a great initiative that will help to ensure that only those persons who are really in need of guns and can act responsibly have access to them. However, this is just the beginning as we will go further to strengthen on firearms legislation and implement strategies to ensure that our streets are free of illegal guns.”
Commissioner of the RTCIPF, Colin Farquhar added, “The RTCIPF has done a very good job of enforcing compliance of current firearm legislation. The number of legally owned guns has remained constant at approximately 300 weapons and the police remain vigilant to ensure these weapons remain in safe hands.”
“While this is a result of better systems and processes in the RTCIPF relating to gun ownership, it is right and proper that we continually evaluate these procedures and look to adopt improved methods to both reduce the opportunity for guns to be in circulation and reduce the disproportionate fear of gun crime.
“This amnesty will allow good honest people who may have inherited a gun, for example, to remain lawful by turning it in and in doing so prevent it from reaching the hands of the criminal organisations. It also allows those who may have acquired a firearm illegally to dispose of it.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands Government introduced stiffer penalties for firearm and firearm related offences. The punishment for any person convicted of illegal possession of firearm is a mandatory term of imprisonment of 5 years with a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years in addition to a fine without limit. The punishment for any person convicted of armed robbery is a mandatory term of imprisonment of 5 years with a maximum of life.