After intense pressure from various sections of the population, Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, has announced that Government intends to reissue the firearms which were handed over by farmers in Amerindian communities during the Gun Amnesty Program last year, since they use these weapons mainly for their sustenance.
In 2015, following the launch of Government’s Gun Amnesty program, several Amerindian farmers had expressed rage, saying that they were duped by the Public Security Ministry into believing that when they handed in their firearms, they would have been issued with licenses.
The Ministry had at the time undertaken an operation, seeking to retrieve all illegal firearms. The aim was to help reduce the soaring number of criminal activities at the time.
According to Minister Trotman, the weapons will not be destroyed, but where necessary, will be restored through the village system. He went on to further explain that while there will not be waiver on the granting of license, there will however be a waiver on application fees.
During the 2016 Budget Debates, Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had called for Amerindians and farmers to be exempted from the increase in gun licence fees since they use their firearms to support their livelihoods.
The Gun Amnesty Programme was meant to get rid of illegal weapons with the hope of reducing criminal activities, particularly the increasing numbers of gun-related crimes all over the country.
However, it should be noted that of the 186 weapons surrendered at the end of the programme, none of them were found to have been used during serious crimes.
Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud had explained that ballistic tests were conducted on a majority of the weapons which proved that none were linked to serious crime. He had previously expressed the belief that criminals with illegal firearms would not turn in their weapons.
The Police Chief also admitted that a majority of the weapons collected were shotguns used mostly by persons hunting, more specifically by Amerindians.