Sun | Feb 18, 2018

Editorial: Armed and dangerous!

Published:Saturday | January 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM

More Jamaicans are arming themselves, legally. Statistics provided by the Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA) revealed that in 2015, a total of 3,980 gun licenses were issued. Jamaica's high murder rate and the inability of the police to protect citizens from violent crimes are two reasons offered by social commentators for the spike in the number of persons who now feel they need to arm themselves.

Head of the FLA, Dr Kenroy Wedderburn, disclosed that nearly 500 more gun licenses were issued in 2015 over 2014, with applicants listing protection of life and property, training and sports usage, as the reasons for applying. He reported that the applicants come from all sections of society.

The public attitude tends to reflect the experiences citizens have had personally, or what they have heard from friends and neighbours or on the news. And with more than 1,000 murders in 2016, a rash of robberies, and various hold ups and car-jacking, confidence in the ability of the police to protect citizens from violent crime, has dipped to a new low, causing many to feel especially vulnerable.

Experts say fear is the number one impetus for firearms sale. This explains why after recent mass shootings in the United States, guns sales from Florida to California and states in-between also spiked.

Anthropologist Herbert Gayle commenting on the fact that nearly 4,000 new gun licenses were issued in 2015, said people don't feel safe and they don't feel protected. Yet, he does not think it's such a good idea for more persons to arm themselves as he feels it may breed even more violence.



He also said some gun owners tend to advertise themselves hereby becoming targets. He was also concerned about the level-headedness of some gun owners and questioned whether persons were given any kind of psychometric test before being approved for a gun license.

Challenged by criminals, over the last few decades, householders have been investing in home security technology to protect life and property. It this same feeling of insecurity which has led to the dramatic growth of the security firms for business and private residences as well as the demand for electronic surveillance.

So it was inevitable that individuals who yearned for security and comfort while in their homes or going about their legitimate business, would feel the need to get armed. However, owning a firearm comes with awesome responsibilities.

The call for proper training for prospective gun holders draws overwhelming support from this newspaper. We also believe firearm holders should undergo some type of psychological evaluation to determine whether they are mentally competent to handle a weapon. Their use of drugs including alcohol should also come under scrutiny when an application is being considered for a firearm permit.

Another factor to be considered is the storage of a firearm. Inappropriate storage and careless handling of firearms have had tragic results for many Jamaican families, especially children who have unwittingly pointed guns at adults or their peers and pulled the trigger. We believe that before gun licenses are issued the police should be satisfied that the potential firearm owner has proper storage and also owns adequate safety devices to avoid the negligent discharge of the weapon.

This surge in gun ownership is another chilling reminder of how insecure our country has become. But while we are focused on the increase in gun ownership we should also pay attention to the sale and distribution of ammunition. As gun advocates are often heard to explain: "Guns don't kill people - it's the bullets that kill them."