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FLA crisis a national disaster

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

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The fallout at the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) must been seen as a national security disaster for Jamaica. The fact that it is now emerging that almost 300 people who ought not to have been awarded licensed firearms were in fact so licensed it is a frightening reality and reflection on our failure to properly manage sensitive and important aspects of our national security 55 years after we became independent.

There is no point in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) indulging in a blame game at this stage. Whether all or some of the firearms were issued during the time of the JLP or PNP, or whether most were issued under the administration of the JLP or the PNP is not the significant factor for the average citizen. What citizens need to hear now is that the present Administration is prepared to do all that is required to ensure that those who are responsible for this debacle must “wear short pants”.

It is not difficult to conclude that the issuing of firearm licences to criminals is the major factor generating the out-of-control escalation in criminal activities, nearly all of which involve the use of firearm. It should be noted, too, that in the majority of instances where criminals are using their weapons they appear to have an inexhaustible supply of ammunition so that they not only fire aimed shots, but reports are that they fire wildly and they fired several rounds when carrying out their criminal activities. This would indicate that the criminals have gained easy access to the supply of ammunition and feel confident to fire at will, knowing that they will be able to obtain resupply easily.

As part of its priority, the FLA should establish an accounting system for all individuals and entities licensed to import and sell ammunition. This system should require the maintenance of a proper database showing who purchases ammunition, and should also show the quantum purchased and a copy of the purchaser's firearm licence/permit showing how many rounds the person is allowed to purchase.

An important lesson that the PNP and the JLP should both learn from the disastrous fallout at the FLA is that appointments to sensitive and important positions in government entities should not necessarily be given to political supporters, but to persons competent and capable of performing in the office.

It is being said Retired Major General Antony Anderson is to be appointed chairman of the FLA; the question to be asked is, why was someone of this calibre and experience not so appointed chairman all along? It is better to be late than never, I guess. The Government should go on to appoint individuals who are of the highest integrity who are honest and who, by virtue of their experience and knowledge, are best able to access applicants and determine whether or not they are suitable to be granted firearm licences.

Revocation of the licences given to individuals who should not have got them should now be a priority. Tracking the sales of ammunition to these people should also be a priority. Where multiple sales by ammunition dealers of ammunition to these individuals are identified the licences of those firearm dealers should be revoked forthwith.

The crime situation in Jamaica today is a threat to every citizen and just about everyone is now in fear, except the gunmen who seem to fearlessly and without any concern for their security enter communities in urban and rural areas and open fire indiscriminately at groups of citizens, including children and infants.

The Government owes it to us to increase our security. That is a national responsibility that should never be treated with lightly.

Linton P Gordon is an attorney-at-law. Send comments to the Observer or lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.

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