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Smith seeks update on bullet-making machines

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 30, 2014    

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OPPOSITION spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith, says he intends to press the Government for information regarding the availability of bullet-making machines to the criminal underworld.

Smith, who recently called on Minister of National Security Peter Bunting to update Parliament on the investigations into the availability and use of the machines in Jamaica, says that it is a matter that cannot be ignored by the Government in light of a 40 per cent increase in ammunition finds by the police this year.

"I am concerned about the 40 per cent increase in the ammunition find this year, because, as we all know, a gun without ammunition is harmless. It needs the ammunition to kill, wound and maim Jamaicans," Smith told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

The Opposition spokesman raised the issue recently in the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives. He presented statistics to show that while ammunition finds by the police dipped from 2,400 in 2011 to 2,104 in 2012, they have been increasing significantly since to 2,400 in 2013 and 3,300 so far in 2014.

He told the Observer yesterday that since raising the issue in the House of Representatives last week Tuesday, he has had no response from the minister.

"The statistics tell me that something is not right," Smith told the House. He said that the chairman of the Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA) seems to have taken up responsibility for tracing the origins of the machines, which were found in Jamaica last November, and the police seem unable to answer questions about the progress of investigations into the find. The machines are said to have been shipped to Jamaica from Florida.

"I am now calling on the minister to bring to Parliament the results of his investigations, something that I have been asking for, for the past three months," Smith said, warning that he will be forced to bring questions on the issue to the House in the absence of an update.

"I will have to table specific questions to ensure that the minister satisfies the country that what I am suspecting is not true," smith added. He said that the country needed to know how often the shooting ranges are audited, and the accuracy of figures they provide on ammunition used or not used.

"The task is yours to see that Jamaicans get the facts. I know the investigations were started, so you do have something to bring to Parliament," Smith told Bunting as he challenged the government to seek to create a safer society for all Jamaicans.

The Observer reported last November that two bullet-making machines and more than 3,000 warheads were seized by the police at the port of Kingston. In addition, the newspaper reported links between the use of bullet-making machines and the local shooting ranges.

According to Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, the seizures indicated that criminal elements are utilising creative means to arm themselves to further their plans to rape, maim and murder law-abiding citizens.

CAPTION:

SMITH... I will have to table specific questions to ensure that the minister satisfies the country that what I am suspecting is not true

One of the bullet-making machines that were seized by the police last year. (OBSERVER FILE PHOTO)

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