Retired Bishop Simeon Hall.
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH less than three months left in the year, the Bahamas has surpassed last year’s murder count of 111, according to The Tribune’s records.
Yesterday, several local pastors called on the government to institute a variety of initiatives, including a 30-day amnesty period for guns, in order to curb the escalating homicides in the country.
The pastors, including Bishop Simeon Hall, Bishop Victor Cooper, Bishop Gregory Minnis and Dr J Carl Rahming, claimed the “political rhetoric and pronouncements” made by politicians “has done very little” in the last 25 years to curb the escalating use of illegal guns throughout the country.
There have been 113 homicides to date, with four people being killed in the past four days.
If the current pace of killings were to continue, the country could come close to the 146 murders recorded in 2015, the highest in the recorded history of the Bahamas. On Tuesday, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said there has been a slight decline in killings under the Minnis administration.
Mr Dames told reporters outside Cabinet that, despite a recent uptick in homicides, the murder rate in the last six months of the year is slightly less than the first four months.
However, the figures he provided were inaccurate based on Tribune records.
According to Mr Dames, there were 58 homicides during the first four months of the year, January to April. He added there had been 54 murders from May to the present - not including this latest shooting death.
The letter from pastors read: “We call on Parliamentarians to lead the rest of civil society in an all out war on illegal guns.
“The tragic death of an infant and several teenagers in recent months all were perpetrated by criminals with illegal guns who have no regard for the sanctity of human life. Every facet of society must enlist in this war against those who have declared war on a civilized Bahamas. Draconian measures must set fear in the hearts of criminals. The fear and dread felt by Bahamians must be transferred to the criminal-minded. The policies of political parties are usually determined by whether they are in Government or in Opposition. This is indeed unfortunate, but accurate.
“We, therefore, further call for a 30-year National Policy on Crime based on consultations with all relevant national stakeholders, and endorsed by all major political parties. When a little boy, sitting innocently in his mother’s house doing his homework, is gunned down, we must declare war on those without regard for human life.”
Some of the other policies suggested by the group include, considering a 30-day amnesty period in which persons are encouraged to turn illegal guns in; doubling the present penalty for those convicted of possession of illegal firearms; removing the current discretion from Magistrates who impose sentencing on those convicted of illegal firearms and disallowing bail for persons convicted of illegal firearms a second time.
On Tuesday, Mr Dames said he did not see the need for a gun amnesty because previous attempts did not produce significant results.
He underscored the Royal Bahamas Police Force has “adjusted its strategy” to target gangs rather than individual criminals.
Last month, Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson announced the establishment of two separate RBPF anti-crime units aimed at eliminating gang activity in the country and reducing the number of homicides.