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HomeNewsArchivesCommittee OKs Bills on DNA Testing, Buying Ammunition

Committee OKs Bills on DNA Testing, Buying Ammunition

A senate panel on Wednesday considered and approved a bill to require DNA testing for those convicted of many types of crimes and another bill to establish rules for buying and storing ammunition.
Both bills are aimed at helping police catch and convict criminals and were up for consideration by the Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice Committee. Sponsored by multiple senators, the DNA testing bill sets up a legal framework for the creation of a territorial DNA database. Anyone convicted of any crime of violence or any sexual offense would automatically have to submit a DNA sample for testing and Police Department records.
Police Commissioner Novelle Francis endorsed the testing requirements of the bill but raised some questions about creating a local DNA databank. Currently, the department has a contract for DNA analysis with DNA Labs Inc. out of Florida, and has no formal crime lab itself, he said. A lab would cost upwards of $20 million to get started, while the current contract with DNA Labs costs the department $350,000, he said. And using the commercial lab has inherent advantages, he said.
"Through DNA Labs we are also able to access DNA databases from other Caribbean jurisdictions, which is crucial due to the ease of travel between the islands,” Francis said.
Voting to send the DNA bill out of its originating committee for consideration by the Rules and Judiciary Committee were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Celestino White, Alvin Williams, Terrence “Positive” Nelson, Patrick Sprauve and Sammuel Sanes. Sen. Wayne James was absent at the time of the vote.
A V.I. Supreme Court case, Smith v. People of the V.I., inspired the bill setting up rules for buying, storing and possessing ammunition. In that case, a defendant’s conviction for unauthorized possession of ammunition was overturned because V.I. law did not establish a mechanism for licensed firearm owners to buy and possess ammunition. Without a procedure in place for being authorized to have ammunition, the state could not show the defendant was not authorized, the justices ruled.
Under the proposed law, having a licensed firearm would automatically confer the right to buy and possess the ammunition for that particular weapon—and only that weapon. Other provisions prohibit gun sellers from putting firearms on display where they are visible from the street and requiring dealers to keep weapons locked up except when being shown, repaired or properly transported.
Francis hailed the bill as giving police more of the tools they need to fight crime.
"Being able to remove ammunition from the streets is almost as important as removing the illegal firearms,” Francis said.
Voting yea were Malone, Sanes, Sprauve, White and Williams. Absent were Nelson and James.

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