Do we have a right to protect ourselves?
A licence is required to own and carry a gun in Jamaica.

Dear Editor,

The savagery now gripping Jamaica is unprecedented. The Government and the police are doing what they can with what they have.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his administrators are bound within the confines of human rights oversight at home and abroad to maintain our citizens’ constitutional rights. The criminals, meanwhile, have no such qualms and violate our right to peace and safety with disdain…leaving our country crime-ridden and all of us in a position of grave vulnerability and fear.

The question is: Do we the citizens of Jamaica have a right to protect ourselves?

Ownership of a licensed firearm in Jamaica is still considered a privilege. We have no constitutional right to such ownership. Applicants are required to show, among other things, “a good reason” for owning a firearm. Approval of a permit is still discretionary.

What we need in Jamaica is a set of clearly defined, objective-based, non-discretionary criteria for issuing firearm permits.

Many people will react by saying, “Oh no…now every Tom, Dick, and Harry will be able to own a firearm. It will be the Wild West all over again.”

Not so!

I am confident that we can craft a set of transparent, objective criteria for issuing firearm permits that is well thought out to properly include only law-abiding, responsible citizens. And I am also confident that we can properly exclude those who are criminal-minded or otherwise previously disqualified based on past behaviour.

One thing is certain in Jamaica, remove the discretionary powers and we remove the opportunities for corruption and malpractice.

Do we the citizens of Jamaica have a right to self-protection? If the answer is yes, then why is the issue of firearm licences based on a discretionary system? Why do applicants have to show good cause and have that justification adjudicated? Why do we still need to rely on discretionary powers of licensing officers?

The right to bear arms in Jamaica may not be in our constitution, but we should still be able to hold our policy administrators to good, logical, clear thinking.

And if we do not have a right to self-protection, then why not?

Sheldon Neil

Instructor,Defensive Solutions Jamaica

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