NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Government of The Bahamas will introduce a National Firearms Control Strategy to counter the proliferation of illegal firearms within the country, Minister of National Security Dr. the Hon. Bernard B.J. Nottage said Monday.
Dr. Nottage said violence associated with the use of those firearms will be reduced as a result of the Strategy. Dr. Nottage said the National Strategy, along with an improved gun registry, the marking and tracing of weapons, improved interdiction of firearms at Bahamian ports of entry and the “regular destruction” of obsolete and confiscated firearms, are all part of a larger plan aimed at reducing illegal gun trafficking and the attendant violence it brings.
The National Security Minister said the Government was also committed to a National Intelligence Agency to address all categories of major crimes in the country.
Comprised of officials from all law enforcement and national security departments, the Agency will allow for the “sustained collaboration and exchange of information” between law enforcement agencies.
“The Government of The Bahamas is determined to maximise our resources in thwarting all efforts to smuggle illegal firearms into our country,” Dr. Nottage said. “The criminal elements have proven to be very resilient and creative in finding alternative ways to continue their illegal activities. As a result, law enforcement agencies must remain ahead of the curve in finding measures to destroy the repulsive activities of drug dealers.
“This can only be done by us working together collectively as partners, both nationally and as a region. We cannot afford to relax in our joint efforts (as) to do so would be to the peril of us all,” Dr. Nottage added.
Addressing law enforcement and national security officials during the Handing Over Ceremony for a set of Hydraulic Shears for Firearms Destruction at the Internal Security Division of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Dr. Nottage said his participation in the Exercise was symbolic of his government’s “unwavering commitment” to destroy the illicit trade in firearms “and the illicit drug trade that has led to carnage in our streets.”
The Hand-Over, was a collaboration between the Government of The Bahamas, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-LIREC).
Dr. Nottage said the large number of illicit firearms and ammunition recovered by law enforcement officers (237 firearms and 4,010 rounds of ammunition as of May 14, 2012), “suggests that there must be a thriving industry in existence to supply and re-supply the owners of illicit weapons.”
“Today, the main source of weapons involved in crime in The Bahamas has been illegal firearms that have been smuggled into the country,” Dr. Nottage said. “Currently, most murders; three quarters of all armed robberies and more than two-thirds of all non-fatal, violent injuries have been committed with the use of a firearm.
“A major contributing factor to the surge of gun-related crime in our country and the region has been the trafficking of narcotics, together with the availability of firearms.”
Dr. Nottage said law enforcement intelligence indicates that firearms have been the “weapons of choice” for the protection of contraband during transportation, and are also smuggled in along with the drugs.
“There has also been evidence that illegal drugs are traded for illegal firearms, in addition to cash. These weapons are used for protecting turf, for intimidating customers and competitors, for empowering recruits into criminal enterprises, for maintaining discipline and for executing informants,” he added.
Dr. Nottage said law enforcement and national security officials will intensify their efforts in the war on the illegal transshipment of drugs and guns, including use of “the intensive surveillance of our water by the Defence Force equipped with suitable vessels and aircraft” to ensure shipments do not go undetected.