New Tool Against Illegal Firearms

NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Government of The Bahamas added another important tool in its multi-faceted approach to combating the illegal firearms trade Wednesday, July 6, after taking receipt of a Firearms Marking Machine from the Organisation of American States (OAS).

The Hand-Over took place at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre and followed months of negotiations that resulted in a Joint Agreement signed with the OAS under their “Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean” Project in January, 2011.

The Bahamas was one of the first regional countries to sign onto the Joint Agreement, joining Costa Rica, Paraguay and Uruguay. The pact follows the framework of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Related Materials (CIFTA).

The Joint Agreement also provides Bahamian law enforcement and national security officials with access to training and equipment for tracking marked firearms. Minister of National Security, the Hon. O.A. “Tommy” Turnquest took receipt of the machine on behalf of the government.

“The marking of firearms will help us to identify the weapons that have been used in criminal activity and therefore help to combat crime in our country and in the region,” Mr. Turnquest said.

“This programme is very important for The Bahamas because we have become a transit point for drugs and small arms. The marking of firearms helps to combat illicit firearms trafficking as it allows authorities to identify the seized weapons to determine their origin,” Mr. Turnquest added.

The Joint Agreement called for the OAS to provide a Firearm Marking Machine and its accessories to the Ministry of National Security for the execution of the project. It also calls for the OAS to provide training on the use of the equipment.

OAS Training Facilitator, Ms. Florencia Raskovan, was in attendance at Wednesday’s hand-over. She will conduct training sessions for local law enforcement and national security officials over the next two days.

In return, The Bahamas is obligated to provide the OAS with information on the country’s capacities and needs with respect to firearms marking, recording and tracing. The country also agreed to cooperate with the OAS on “follow-up missions” and to mark an average of 100 firearms per month over the course of the next 12 months.

Mr. Turnquest said the Joint Agreement with the OAS, and receipt of the machine, further shows the Government’s commitment to getting rid of illegal guns which statistics show have been responsible for 72 per cent of the murders committed in The Bahamas as of July 5, 2011.

He said the establishment of Magistrate’s Court No. 9 (also known as the Gun Court) was another major aspect of that war on guns. The court, he said, has paid immediate dividends.

National Security and law enforcement officials say the illegal trafficking in firearms is tied directly into other transnational criminal activities such as drugs and human smuggling.

“The Government of The Bahamas is determined to maximise our resources in thwarting all efforts to smuggle illegal firearms into our country,” Mr. Turnquest said.

“A major effort in this regard has been the strategic approach to move all illegal firearm cases to a single Magistrates’ Court and we have been very impressed with the results to date.

“While reducing the trade in illegal weapons is a challenging undertaking, we are satisfied that improved gun registries, and the marking and tracing of weapons, along with improved interdiction of firearms at our ports, can help,” Mr. Turnquest added.

By Matt Maura
Bahamas Information Services