Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Garth Rattray | If the FLA is serious

Published:Monday | August 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

In only a few days apart, two licensed firearm holders got themselves in trouble. Reportedly, one got into an altercation with a security guard. Apparently, things got heated and he pulled his licensed firearm, but he was shot and killed by the security guard.

In the other case, it was reported that a municipal councillor used his licensed firearm to repeatedly hit someone with whom he was quarrelling. He was arrested.

I have overheard a licensed firearm holder saying that he patrols his gated community with his firearm. He claims that he fired at an intruder who he believed was responsible for several motor vehicle break-ins.

Another asserted that he would shoot anyone that he sees up in his mango tree. Sounded like he thought that trespassing deserved a death sentence. He also justified shooting the mango tree intruder because the thief MIGHT attack him. I guess the thinking is, 'Do unto others before they do unto you.'

So far, I've heard that in light of the recent infractions by licensed firearm holders, the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) plans to engage the services of psychologists to assess new applicants and those applying for renewals.

I know that the FLA requires that new applicants undergo specified hours of instruction about the firearm law, rules and regulations. I also know that those doing recertification must revise the rules, but still, a minority of licensed firearm holders are committing various violations. I don't expect that everyone will always toe the line but, when violations involve deadly weapons, things look very bad.

 

NO ONE SAFE

 

As far as I am aware, the FLA does fairly intensive investigations and training before issuing firearm licences. But I must confess that I am somewhat concerned by the preponderance of legal firearms out there. That, along with the flourishing private security industry, speaks to the amount of crime and violence in our society. No one feels safe.

Furthermore, many Jamaicans are living on the emotional edge. Tempers run hot on the streets all the time. People are fed up with road hogs and aggressive windscreen cleaners. I believe that it's only a matter of time before bullets start flying in public spaces. (In fact, there was a shooting of a windscreen cleaner at Liguanea, purportedly by a policeman.)

I actually have friends, including women, who do not want to own a firearm because they cannot trust themselves to remain in control when minibus drivers and route taxis cut them off, push them over, bore in the line, form new lanes, endanger them and then graphically tell them what lewd acts to perform on their mother.

I also believe that it's only a matter of time before windscreen cleaners splash dirty water on someone's windscreen, or harass the wrong driver for money, or fling back money through a window because it's not enough and someone shoots one of them. In fact, a few years ago, I saw windscreen cleaners running nervously from Portia Simpson Miller Square. I asked the nearest one to me what was going on and he said that a motorist lost his cool at an aggressive windscreen cleaner and fired a shot into the air!

I have a feeling that the FLA is going to make owning a licensed firearm extremely difficult and demanding. I'm hoping that the FLA will find simpler, less onerous ways to educate, update and remind licensed firearm holders of their responsibilities.

If the FLA is serious, it should use WhatsApp messages (not groups because they are not anonymous), emails and even texts to regularly revise the relevant aspects of the firearms law and to remind legal gun owners of what they can and cannot do. Firearms are ONLY for defence and should only be accessed if a life is in imminent danger.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.