Careless gun owners

Careless gun owners

51 licensed firearm holders lose weapons in 2019; 1,877 rounds of ammunition reported stolen

Senior staff reporter

Friday, January 17, 2020

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HEAD of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Shane Dalling says the agency is very concerned about the high number of firearms being reported lost or stolen.

“Our approach is to start revoking licences from individuals who we believe are careless. We consider every firearm lost or stolen to contribute to the crime problem. In international circles a lost or stolen firearm is considered to be a means of diversion. When a legal firearm is lost, it goes into illicit hands. We consider it very serious that we are putting weapons in the hands of criminals,” Dalling told the Jamaica Observer.

According to FLA data, 51 firearms were reported stolen/lost in 2019, resulting in the revocation of 49 licences. Another 26 licences were revoked in 2018 stemming from the theft/loss of 54 weapons.

The majority of the weapons stolen in 2019, according to Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) statistics, are pistols, followed by revolvers and shotguns.

The JCF has also reported that last year 1,877 rounds of ammunition were recorded stolen for 2019, which was 466 more than 2018.

Dalling explained that when a licensed firearm goes missing, it is sometimes due to “careless loss” or the holder's actions. “I've seen a report of a person leaving their firearm in a public bathroom (and) we are seeing more and more of those reports. So the approach is where a person loses one firearm and has others, we may revoke all of them,” he said.

Under the Firearms Act (2010), it is an offence for any licensed firearm holder to lose his/her weapon through negligence, and such persons could face a fine of $100,000 or imprisonment of up to one year.

Dalling also pointed out that under the law a licensed gun holder must report loss/theft to the police within 48 hours. “Administratively, as the superintendent of all licensed firearms, we conduct our own investigations to find out if the licensed holder acted appropriately in terms of safe use and handling. Before the gun is given to the individual they have to go through training to learn about its use and handling, and the rules,” he said. “This safe handling assessment is conducted every three years,” said Dalling.

The FLA, he said, has been undertaking a number of public relations programmes over the past year to educate licensees about safe use and handling of their weapons. “The FLA carries out its own process, so even if the police do not find that you were negligent, the authority will still revoke the licence,” he said, stressing the importance of legal gun owners being careful with their weapons.

The Firearms Act states that an individual who does not report a gun stolen or lost has committed an offence under the law and is liable on conviction before a Resident Magistrate (parish court judge) to a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment with or without hard labour for up to one year.

At the same time, Dalling said when a licensed firearm holder does not wish to retrieve their firearm, if recovered, the FLA destroys the weapon.

“We don't take lightly replacing firearms that are lost or stolen unless it's a genuine case. We don't take cases where individuals say they left the firearm in a car [for example] lightly,” he stressed.

In the meantime, he pointed out that all firearms imported for private use undergo ballistic testing by the FLA before they are handed over to the licensed owner. “So if it is used after it's sent to the ballistic lab, all the signatures are automatically loaded, and police would already have the signature,” Dalling pointed out.

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