People held with illegal firearms will now be in for severe penalties—including jail sentences for the rest of one’s life— and big fines after Government’s Firearms Bill was passed in Parliament on Monday night with Opposition support.
The bill, passed in the Senate a few months ago, is part of Government’s “tools” to fight crime including murders. It increases the penalties for illegal firearm possession and in some instances provides increased penalties for first, second and third convictions.
Among the bill’s 28 clauses, a person who chalks up a third firearms offence risks serving the rest of their natural life in jail. For the first time also, the offence of trafficking in firearms is being introduced in T&T and the offence of prohibited weapons.
During debate Prime Minister Keith Rowley lashed out at statements by UNC MP Rodney Charles during the debate.
Rowley said he was a black man in T&T and was never afraid to speak of himself as a black man and African.
He said maybe if people spoke about race more and not inoffensive or disagreeable ways, “We may make some progress.”
But he said Charles had attempted to convey that the bill’s measures were aimed at black people in inner cities and was trying to tell black people that the PNM was passing a law to jail them.
Rowley claimed the UNC was also conveying a similar message in its election campaign on the ground and, “That’s dangerous in T&T!” he added.
Yesterday however Charles issued a media statement, replying to the claims.
He accused Rowley’ of trying to “hoodwink voters using his tried and tested penchant for promoting distractions.”
“Dr Rowley might have succeeded in his bullying tactics against his former leader Mr Manning and others. Not against me,” Charles added.
Reporter: Gail Alexander