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Obama's gun control measures leave J'can police hopeful

BY CONRAD HAMILTON Senior staff reporter hamiltonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 20, 2013    

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LOCAL law enforcement officials are eagerly awaiting the passage of tougher gun control legislation in the United States as they believe tighter laws in that country will result in fewer firearms entering Jamaica illegally.

For years, the security forces have linked the large number of illegal guns in Jamaica to liberal gun control measures in the United States, which make it possible for the local criminal network to obtain guns and slip them through various channels in their bid to unleash violence in communities across Jamaica.

The heightened anticipation comes in the wake of announcements by US President Barrack Obama that the measures are being introduced as part of efforts to reduce tragedies such as that which unfolded in December when a gunman walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and killed 20 children and six of their teachers, along with his mother and finally himself.

Obama's announcement came amidst intense debate regarding the US Government's power to institute tougher gun control measures.

Those opposed to the new gun control measures are basing their arguments on the constitutional provision that states that the right of citizens to bear arms shall not be infringed.

In what remains a highly controversial move, Obama last week unveiled the most sweeping gun control proposals in more than 20 years.

The president urged the US Congress to reintroduce an expired ban on new purchases of military-style assault weapons, limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and pass a ban on the possession and sale of armour-piercing bullets.

In addition, the proposals which have irked gun rights advocates include the introduction of background checks on all gun purchases and the introduction of harsher penalties for gun traffickers.

Obama also signed 23 executive orders, which do not require congressional approval. They include an end to a ban on State-funded research into gun violence.

Meanwhile, New York became the first US state to legislate tough anti-gun measures, also in response to the Connecticut killings.

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a Bill that expands the state's ban on assault weapons, puts limits on ammunition capacity, and which has new measures aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Speaking with the Sunday Observer yesterday, Jamaica's Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds said any move by the United States to tighten gun control would benefit Jamaica.

"There are several states in the USA that have a very liberal gun control regime, so if the US tightens up that angle, then certainly it means that it will be much more difficult for guns to make their way into Jamaica," Hinds explained.

Officials in Mexico are also hoping that tighter gun control in the US will reduce the number of weapons that make their way into Mexico's drug cartels which have been engaged in a bloody, decade-long war.

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