Gun amnesty is not right for T&T at this point in time. This was the recommendation put forward yesterday by Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs at the launch of a regional project on gun control, titled Strengthening Caricom Co-operation to reduce Gun Crime, at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre. The project is a collaboration between Caricom's Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and Project Ploughshares, a Canadian non-governmental organisation. Gibbs said: "Although gun amnesty has proven value abroad, at this time we have chosen to put it on the back burner in favour of other initiatives, like the one being launched today."
The three-year project, which is co-ordinated by IMPACS, aims to modernise and integrate the region's information management systems in the area of arms and ammunition and to develop anti-gun policy, based on regional trends and inter-state comparisons. It was noted by National Security and Labour Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of the Caricom Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE), Dr Errol Cort, who delivered the feature address, that T&T was one of the few members of Caricom which have implemented measures recommended by the United Nations on gun control.
The programme highlighted the imperative to move away from a paper-based system of keeping records of import, export, transfer, licensing and seizure of small arms and light weapons. The project was funded by the Canadian Government to the tune of $12 million through its Anti-Crime Capacity Building Programme. National Security Minister John Sandy, who addressed the event, said reducing the illegal supply of handguns to criminals was critical to reducing gun violence.
He said the Government was in full support of the project which would help in national and regional policy formulation and the day-to-day work of law enforcement agencies. Sandy highlighted a bill to amend the Firearms Act, Chapter 16:01, which he brought to Parliament three weeks ago, as part of Government's plans to fight gun crime in T&T. When pressed about Government's position on boarder control in preventing the trafficking of illegal firearms and drugs, Sandy said Government had not abandoned the waters of T&T.
"We are pursuing the possibility of getting additional assets to patrol our waters," he said.
Sandy also said the National Mentoring Programme, to be launched in April, and other socially-oriented projects would aid in the fight against crime by targeting T&T's youths. The National Mentoring Programme will be officiated by former US secretary of state Colin Powell.