French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten go to war against gun possessionPOSTED: 09/29/14 12:36 AM
Collection drive in second half of October
MARIGOT – French and Dutch side law enforcement authorities have joined forces in an attempt to get as many illegal firearms off the streets as possible. During a joint press conference at the prefecture in Marigot, they announced an information campaign that will begin on October 1, followed by the opportunity to surrender illegal firearms to the gendarmerie (on the French side) and to the office of the solicitor-general on the Dutch side, from October 15 until the end of the month.
Recently, the island of Curacao did a similar drive to collect weapons. The prosecutor’s office in Willemstad offered 100 guilders for each weapon citizens surrendered. The action yielded 406 firearms.
Solicitor-General Taco Stein said yesterday that the French and Dutch side authorities had decided not to offer money for guns. “We do not want to reward people for former wrongs, nor do we want anyone to start collecting weapons to turn them over.”
Last year, the gendarmerie collected 46 illegal firearms. On the Dutch side, controls yielded 15 guns during the last six months of last year and another 15 during the first half of this year.
Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, Solicitor-General Taco Stein, inspectors Benjamin Gout, Ricardo Henson and Felix Richards and Minister Richardson’s cabinet chief on his last working day on the island, Ron van de Veer were among those who attended the press conference at the Prefecture. Mireille Aalders-Franse of the police force’s internal communication department was also present.
From the French side Préfet Délégué Philippe Chopin, and Chief Prosecutor Samuel Finielz and captain Sylvain Jouault of the gendarmerie were among those at hand.
Minister Richardson said that the initiative for the joint action had come from the French side. He appreciated the collaboration between the two sides of the island, citing the worrisome increase in gun-related crime. “We have to do something about that and get as many guns off the streets as possible.”
The minister said that the Dutch-side police would intensify controls on gun possession. “But there is now also an opportunity for people to surrender their weapons to the office of the solicitor-general without having to fear for prosecution,” he said.
“We do not need the reputation of a gun-carrying people,” Solicitor-General Taco Stein added. He explained that the action does no only focus on guns in criminal circles. “”This also applies to people whose grandfather had goats and left them with a rifle they don’t know what to do with.”
Stein said that “look-alike” guns, like pellet guns also fall under the term of illegal firearms, because they are fit to threaten people.
The prosecutor’s office will start demanding more severe sentences for illegal firearm possession, the solicitor-general announced. Up to now, the court routinely punishes gun possession with 12 months of imprisonment, though there are exceptions to this rule. The maximum penalty for illegal gun possession is 4 years on the Dutch side and 5 years on the French side.
“We will keep offenders in pretrial detention until the case goes to court,” Stein warned.
The information campaign will begin on October 1 with the distribution of posters in four languages – French, English, Spanish and Creole. A red-white-and blue colored bracelet – not accidentally the colors of the flags of both countries – that brings the Live Strong yellow bracelet of the disgraced cycling champ Lance Armstrong to mind will become available for citizens who want to express their support for the fight against illegal guns. The text on the bracelets will not be Live Longer (Armstrong fell from grace, after all) but Stop Drop & Go.
Justice Minister Richardson said that, in other efforts to curb gun possession, his ministry does not grant new firearm licenses anymore.