Letters to the Editor

FLA system designed to breed corruption

Monday, September 11, 2017

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Dear Editor,

I have an entirely different perspective on the saga now engulfing the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA).

There has been much anguish and distress about the revelations that licensed firearms may have found their way into the hands of individuals of dubious character. I do not share these sentiments.

My understanding is that when the FLA was established one of its mandates was to get ballistic records of all licensed firearms, essentially getting the 'fingerprint' of all these firearms. This was a simple enough exercise to undertake because all that needed to be done was that when licences were renewed or issued, the taking of this record would be a condition of the renewal or issuing of a licence. It follows then it would be an idiotic licensed firearm holder who would use his licensed firearm to shoot someone, as forensic analysis would very likely match his weapon to the ballistic record of the warhead recovered from the victim.

Additionally, it is a fact that the authorities have been unable to stop the availability of illegal firearms on the streets and people with malicious intent can easily rent or buy a firearm to carry out whatever illicit activity they wish to perform; hence, there is very little sense in using one's legal firearm for illegal activities.

I also have an issue with the licensing system for firearms as now obtains. The current system metamorphosed out of a seeming understanding that firearms are needed to subjugate the slaves. It seems the system was designed from the idea that gun ownership be restricted to the landed, white elite who needed to 'protect' their lives and property from the majority coloured population who they perceived could be hostile, given the horrible legacy of slavery.

I believe there to be no clearly defined criteria for owning a licensed firearm in Jamaica. The current system for awarding a firearm licence is taciturn in nature and shrouded in secrecy. This is the very thing that led to the present situation. There is too much discretionary power in the hands of those who have the authority to make this decision and this lends itself to corruption.

To sort out this mess the Government needs to repeal and replace the laws that govern this activity. The new law has to set out defined criteria and procedures for Jamaicans to be awarded a firearm licence. It must include stiff sanctions for breaches of procedures, whether intentionally or through negligence.

It is my opinion that the governing principle of any new firearm licensing law should be that every Jamaican, on reaching the age of 30, be entitled to be issued with a firearm licence if he/she wishes. Of course, this would be subject to having a violence-free criminal record, among other things. I chose this age because, by age 30, most people would have, by then, demonstrated whether or not they are of the character that we, as a society, can be reasonably confident they will responsibly handle a firearm. Additionally, by 30 people have more than likely acquired some assets or a lifestyle which would require defending it against people with malintent. The life of every Jamaican is of equal value and each should have the equal right and means to defend that life. Question is, do the backra massas that now occupy the great house share this view?

Alwyn K Gregory





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