During the past year, police have managed to seize a total of 35 illegal firearms during various operations and searches.
Acting Police Commissioner Milton Desir said that this number forms part of the police statistics for 2016.
Police have in the past raised concerns that a majority of illegal firearms are at the centre of many incidents involving serious and violent crimes across the country, particularly in Castries.
Nevertheless, Desir told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) that the police continues to do all it can to go after persons who have illegal guns, based on intelligence they get from time to time.
“We have to rely on intelligence and not to go on wild goose chase. When you go to x person, you get a warrant to conduct a search. And there are also random searches on persons involved in criminal activities and some are recovered during traffic checks,” he explained.
Asked whether the current system used to track and go after illegal gun owners is effective, Desir said in as much the Police Force believes it is, the main priority is to prevent them from reaching these shores.
Porous borders have been long blamed for the proliferation of illegal guns on the island.
National Security Minister Hermangild Francis said the government plans to look at legislation that will impose stricter penalties for persons found with illegal firearms.
“Persons who have been convicted for possession of illegal firearm, should go on to serve a life sentence. These are certain things…there has to be draconian legislation in place to make persons think twice about getting a firearm.”
Francis noted that illegal guns are not the only weapons used to commit crimes. He recalls that during his stint at the Police Force, a weapon belonging to a minister of government was traced to a murder.
The minister told SNO when the Forensic Lab is reopened, the government plans to create a register that will match the DNA to each firearm holder, making it easier to solve crimes.
He said in an instance where a crime is committed, the gun holder will have to give account for the gun.
Meanwhile, the acting police commissioner said despite there have been concerns regarding the stringent system by which an individual acquires a gun licence, this will not change anytime soon.
“We don’t want firearms to be in the hands of irresponsible individuals. And that is why it is a process that you will be investigated .It takes time. Approval time varies based on investigation.”