James proposes cash for guns to get firearms off the streets

POSTED: 10/10/11 11:50 AM

St. Maarten – MP Jules James called for a gun amnesty this weekend to get guns off the streets and to initiate a cash-for-guns program. In a press release, the United People’s party MP expressed concern over the level of crimes that involve firearms. “Owning a firearm without a license is against the law and every gun removed from the street is a success story,” James stated.
The MP says that amnesty would be an incentive for individuals and an opportunity to hand in unwanted, unlicensed or illegal firearms as well as ammunition. The amnesty should be part of a wider firearms reduction strategy.
James envisions a system whereby people who turn in a firearm will not be charged for possession, or subjected to an interrogation. “It is imperative that we find ways to reduce crime and criminal activities in our multi-cultural society through intervention and transformation,” he said
James intends to work with Parliament, the Minister of Justice, the Chief Public Prosecutor and the Chief Police Commissioner to arrange a grace period.
James said that the private sector should be involved to turn his initiative into a public-private sector project, whereby the latter provides a cash reward for firearms and ammunition that are brought in.
At least one company has already committed to this initiative by offering US$1000. James says he has also received positive reactions from other businesses that are willing to contribute.
The MP said that the logistics would have to be sorted out. Weapons will have to be turned in at the police station on certain days and by a specific cut-off date. “We need to work with other countries in the region to curb the prevalence of illegal firearms and ammunition. One of our immediate priorities should be to cut off the flow of illegal guns into the island. We are not going forward if we retrieve five guns in our amnesty project and 25 more guns come through our borders. Our Caribbean societies have had easy access to illicit small arms, light weapons and ammunition. The Caribbean Basin does not manufacture, export or re-export these weapons, nor import them on a large scale.”
James says that last time he checked, St Maarten did not have any legalized gun traders. “Yet our island is infiltrated by these illegal weapons. It’s as if we have a fire arms race, no wonder there is a spate of gun related incidents.”
Small arms and light weapons were discussed at the 32nd meeting of heads of government of the Caribbean community (CARICOM) in St. Kitts & Nevis in July. “We need a regional approach to deal with this issue and to protect our communities,” James said.
He added that since foreign affairs falls under the responsibility of Holland, St. Maarten should bring up the matter with respect to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons at the United Nations.
“The only international process that addresses the illicit trade in arms is the 2001 United Nations action program to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Next year a review of this program will take place at the 2012 United Nations conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.
“St. Maarten should discuss the approach with our Kingdom partners, such as Aruba and Curacao and then discuss it with Holland. The Kingdom approach can be brought forward to the UN. St. Maarten does not have a seat in the UN, only Holland. UN treaties and conventions are binding for the Dutch Kingdom and that includes St. Maarten.
“These two approaches, the gun amnesty and dealing with the global picture of small arms and light weapons at a higher level are two initiatives worth considering and working on,” James concluded.

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