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More J'cans 'packing'

Spiralling murder rate forces private citizens to arm themselves with guns

BY PETE SANKEY
Senior Associate Editor
sankeyp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 08, 2018

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More Jamaicans are arming themselves with guns, prompted, apparently, by the island's skyrocketing and seemingly out-of-control murder rate, based on figures from the State-run Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA).

Jamaica, with a population of approximately 2.8 million people, recorded 1,616 murders in 2017, a 19.4 per cent increase over 2016, which has played into the view that Jamaica is one of the most violent countries in the world per capita.

Information obtained from the FLA by the Jamaica Observer through the Access to Information Act (AIA) showed that, except for one year, there has been an annual increase in the number of firearm licences issued over the five-year period 2012 to 2016.

In fact, of the 42,136 firearm licence holders on the FLA's record, 20,402 were issued during the five-year period 2012 to 2016 during which murders averaged more than 1,000 annually.

In 2012, some 1,864 firearm licences were issued, with a giant leap in 2013 to 4,494. The number issued in 2014 dropped to 4,043, but the following year, 2015, the figured moved to 4,706, and in 2016 increased to 5,295, the FLA said.

At the same time, more than 700 licensed firearm holders reported their weapons lost or stolen during the same period 2012 to 2016, with 305 in 2016 alone and 274 in 2015. In 2012, the figure was 53; 59 in 2013; and 60 in 2014.

The FLA was unable to say how many licensed firearm holders were killed or injured in confrontation with gunmen.

“The authority is not in a position to answer this question. This question should be forwarded to the relevant agency in keeping with Section 8 of the Access to Information Act,” it said in response to Observer queries.

During the five-year period under review, 207 firearm licences were revoked by the FLA. Of this number, 77 were revoked in 2012; 44 in 2013; 23 in 2014; nine in 2015; and 54 in 2016, the data by the FLA showed.

Asked to give the main reasons for revocation of firearm licences, the FLA explained that:

“The firearm holder is reported to be habitually displaying intimidating intemperate behavioural habits and such other related behaviour that in the view of the authority would make the firearm holder unfit to retain such licence, certificate and permit.”

In addition, the FLA said firearm holders lost their licences because:

• The firearm holder has been convicted in Jamaica or in any other country for an offence involving:

(a) the illegal importation or exportation of firearms or ammunition

(b) the illegal possession or use of a firearm or ammunition;

(c) violence against a person or persons for which a sentence of imprisonment of three months or more was imposed;

(d) the holder has been convicted of an offence against the Dangerous Drugs Act or any other offence for which a sentence of two years or more was imposed;

the FLA further explained that some licences issued had been revoked because the holder had been convicted in a court of law of an offence involving any of the following:

• the unlawful discharge of a firearm in a public place;

• failure to adequately secure a firearm or ammunition at his place of abode or work on his person;

• the unlawful use of a firearm to threaten violence against another person; or

• negligence, resulting in the loss of a firearm or ammunition, and if the holder is now deceased.

The FLA, however, was unable to say how many licence revocations led to police investigation and/ or matters taken to court.

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