Oct. 3, 2007 — If you have an unregistered gun, there is an amnesty this month so you can turn it in to the police or bring it in and have it registered without fear of repercussions. The Police Department is encouraging residents throughout the territory to participate in their month-long Firearms Amnesty Program run by the departments Firearms Bureau. This program is designed to provide those persons who may be in possession of unlicensed, unregistered or otherwise illegal firearms and/or ammunition stores to turn them over to police without fear of prosecution. The amnesty program begins on Oct. 2 and ends on Nov. 2,
Gun amnesty is a part of the Police Departments ongoing efforts to keep guns off the street, said Karen Stout, Supervisor of the St. Croix Firearms Bureau. We did one last year and we got about 60 guns brought into my district, here on St. Croix."
Some people shipped in personal guns from the states and were afraid to bring them in to register them," Stout said, adding, "You are not supposed to bring in guns. Youre supposed to get in contact with us before hand. But this month, you can bring in guns you already have and register them without worrying about getting into trouble.
The amnesty program was renewed last year, after having been inactive since 2001.
Whether a resident's license expired or they are in possession of a firearm inherited from a family member, amnesty allows residents to bring their firearms into the bureau and register them without fear of fines or legal troubles. Upon receiving the gun, the bureau will check the firearm for involvement in a crime. If the firearm checks out OK, the license may be renewed. In the event a firearm has been involved in a crime, the weapon is then confiscated with no penalty to the individual, provided that individual has not been involved in any criminal behavior.
V.I. law does not allow residents to carry firearms on their person. Allowances are made for retired officers and military personnel who have been honorably discharged from service.
We have a reciprocal arrangement with some jurisdictions, too, Stout said.
This means certain people who already have carry-permits in stateside jurisdictions with similar laws are automatically entitled to a carry- permit in the territory. Otherwise, there are four categories of hand gun license in the territory: home protection, target practice, business protection and law enforcement.
According to Stout, firearms must be registered every three years. Firearms not registered within that period are subject to a $50 late fee during the first three months. A $30 late fee is added for each subsequent year the gun is unregistered, up to five years. During amnesty, the late fees are waived for all residents with unregistered firearms more than five years old.
To obtain a gun license for home protection or target practice, residents need to complete an application and provide a birth certificate, social security card, driver's license, two letters of recommendation and a personal letter stating your need for a firearm. Business owners must show their business license and four company deposit slips.
There are several small fees, for applications, fingerprinting and a background check. You can expect to spend about $50… For anyone who has not been involved in a felony or dishonorably discharged from the military, the process to issue the license should take one or two weeks.
If you are already registered gun owner, you can stop by this month and get a free gun lock. Gun violence has been on the rise in the territory and unregistered weapons have played a role.
Since 2000, more than 175 people have lost their lives through senseless acts of violence. Thirty homicides have been reported in the territory this year: 18 on St. Thomas, 10 on St. Croix and two on St. John.
Most of the territorys gun deaths are from unregistered guns, Stout said.
This program is also intended to benefit the territories licensed gun owners as well. Licensed gun owners can request the Police Department place their guns in safekeeping if they plan to travel for long periods of time or no longer have a safe location for their registered firearm.
The Police Department is also reminding gun owners to be responsible about gun ownership and safety by keeping their weapons properly secured and away from childrens reach, Stout said in a release about the amnesty. She said the V.I. Police Department website will soon have firearms safety as well as registration information.
Any person in possession of an unlicensed firearm who wishes to legally retain the gun must get a license by successfully completing a firearm application and gun safety certification.
Stout says the Firearms Bureau is also in the process of updating firearms records. Families of gun owners who are now deceased and persons who previously stored their firearms with the Bureau are asked to contact Police Officer Karen Stout at 778-2211 extension 6058 or Sgt. Athenia Brown, Supervisor of the St. Thomas Firearms Bureau at 774-2211 extension 5519. You can call those same individuals for more information on the gun amnesty.
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