A month long gun amnesty has begun in the TCI was confirmed by Commissioner of Police Colin Farquhar today, Monday, 3 June 2013.
Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF) Commissioner Farquhar revealed that a letter written in English, Creole and Spanish had been read out at the weekend’s Churches services across the Islands. He also described how a group of 16 pastors had received basic weapons handling training in order to assist with the programme.
We recognise that many people would rather hand in an unregistered firearm anonymously to a pastor rather than come to the Police,” said Farquhar. “This is why we have trained these pastors to assist by dealing with any weapons received as safely and securely.
Farquhar stood before waepons handed in to the RTCIPF since the end of 2012 at the first formal media briefing of the four week long amnesty campaign. He added, “Concerned citizens who have decided that they no longer wish to have a legally owned gun have voluntarily handed theirs in to us recently.
We believe that there are others who may have been gifted or left firearms who may wish to take advantage of the amnesty too. This amnesty is designed to help honest people who no longer want their weapons to stay that way. Clearly, any hardened criminals are unlikely to respond to such an amnesty – although anything is possible.
He directly addressed concerns that the amnesty was some kind of ‘honey pot’ or trap designed to implicate people in crimes.
Nothing could be further from the truth, our duty is to ensure public safety,” said Farquhar. “Remember that all guns that come into the country legally are subject to ballistic and other tests before being handed over to their owners. So, of course we will test them again in order to confirm the full life cycle of the weapon.
Similarly, this will involve the sharing of this information with the authorities in the Bahamas and USA who hold our records in order to confirm the life cycle of weapons that may have been involved in crimes.
During the amnesty the RTCIPF will allow people to surrender any weapons to any Police Station or to pastors or church leaders who have completed the safe-handling training. 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.
From June 2013 on, 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.
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.