While the Opposition has lent its support to the government bill which will see the maximum penalty for non-capital gun crimes increasing from 10 to 15 years, Senator Nigel Carty says that alone will not solve the country’s growing crime problem.
Senator Carty, during Tuesday’s National Assembly debate on the Firearms Amendment Bill:
“I can’t have any serious objection against increasing penalties for criminals, but what I absolutely reject is for the government to be basically putting forward this bill as the linchpin of its crime reduction strategy. Dealing with the issue of crime can hardly ever be dealt with solely as a matter of increasing penalties.
“I’m not against that. Put it to 20 years, 15 years, if you want to bring it from 20 to 15, it’s okay; wherever you want to go, you go. You could put it to 30, you could put it to 100, it really doesn’t matter, because in my view and as the studies have revealed, that in and of itself will not lead an abating of crime in the country.”
While the Senator said the government’s move to increase the punitive measures for gun crimes is a step in the right direction, he called on them to get serious about a holistic approach to crime fighting in federation.
“So let’s deal with what we think ought to be done, ought to be pursued seriously in an attempt to bring back down the crime. We see it increasing. We hear police taking more guns off the streets but that’s just an indication of how many guns there really are coming through Customs, coming through our ports and close relatives of members on that side [government benches], and those who support them are being caught in all kinds of things with guns, whether it’s at Conaree or coming through the port, as though there’s an emboldenment because they are in office – bring the guns in.
“So we are saying we need to get very serious about this issue of crime fighting in the country and I’m very happy that those who are on that side have now come to recognize that crime is everybody’s business. Seeing about the control and abatement and reduction of crime is everybody’s business.”
Opposition MP Konris Maynard is also of the view that the proposed amendments to the Firearms and the Bail Bills are not enough to deter gun crimes. He said it is a just show being put on by Minister of National Security, Prime Minister Timothy Harris to give the public the impression that he was doing something about the crime issue. Maynard said in the midst of the recent spate of gun-related homicides, the Prime Minister failed to make any public statement on the matter, yet made a national address on the Chinese National issue and addressed the violence in London in the last sitting of parliament.
“A whole national address was arranged… shortly before that we had the killing of a young businessman, gunned down in his vehicle. We had a teenager gone missing and as far as I know is still missing. From then to to now we’ve had four, five, maybe even six other murders and as the Member for #2 said, absolutely nothing from the gentleman responsible for national security.
“In this parliament in the last sitting the Prime Minister rightly gave regards to killings that happened in Manchester, but nothing for the killings and the heartbreak and the agony of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“And because he has faced severe criticism for his missing in action approach to crime we have a bill to increase firearms sentence from ten years to fifteen years. This is not enough.”
He continued, “The perception in the public sphere is that the government is not at all serious about its attempt to lead in the fight against crime, and having a parliament sitting to do what is a small portion of crime-fighting so that you can wave it up in a press conference to say look we have done this, we have done that,… much like we have had bills for show appearing in this House.
“The government doesn’t appear to be serious and this bill does nothing to change that perception.”
Twelve of the fourteen homicides recorded thus far this year were as a result of gun violence.
Prime Minister Harris said increasing the penalties for gun possession and other firearm related offences is just one facet of the government’s overarching response to crime.
The debate continues in the National Assembly at 1pm Wednesday (June 14).