Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Gun lust mainly about bravado, says Semaj

Published:Friday | August 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

A mix of psychological and sociological influences may be the trigger for the significant increase in the number of persons applying for gun licence.

Psychologist Leahcim Semaj and security consultant Robert Finzi Smith told The Gleaner that there is a distinct sociological symbol inherent in some Jamaicans wanting to be legitimate firearm holders.

Both men, however, suggested that there is a stronger element of psychological influence spurring Jamaicans to feel an urgent need to protect their space with the use of a firearm.

Executive Director of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Dr Kenroy Wedderburn told The Gleaner on Wednesday that the agency has processed 3,800 applications for firearm licences, since the start of the year. This is an average of 550 per month, up from a little over 200 monthly a few years ago.

Semaj said owning a gun "is both sociological and psychological ... . Sociological refers to status symbol associated with owning a firearm." He further said the psychological dimension is "assisted by the perception that the FLA is a far more credible organisation than before."

Mostly males affected

He was supported by Finzi Smith, who argued that the psychological impact was greater although a sociological effect existed among primarily male weapon holders.

"It is a psychological thing with about a 25 per cent sociological injection because you will have some people see it as a status thing, he suggested.

Added Finzi Smith: "The culture in Jamaica has become a gun culture, in which everybody figures that it suits them to have a licensed firearm."

He said these applicants include persons who don't need to apply for a firearm licence in the public's eye and proffered that an increased number of Jamaicans firmly believe that there is a real need to protect themselves.

"The problems is that this is translated into putting weapons in the hands of persons who may efficiently handle the weapons based on the requirements but not armed with the mental capacity to use it as they should," he argued.

A licensed firearm holder endorsed the sentiments of the two professionals. "It is something that I need for my personal protection, because the law enforcement officers are never always around," said the owner of a legitimate firearm for a number of years.

Semaj attributed the psychology of Jamaicans to a perception that the Government was not maintaining the concept of a modern state.

He argued that a modern state hinges on government having a monopoly or in control of violence and determine who can live and who can die.

"We settle disputes by going to the Government, which will determine what happens," added Semaj. "The clear-up rate for murders is extremely low and there is a high probability of someone killing you and getting away with it."

Semaj argued that the probability of the police coming into a community and preventing something from happening is quite low.

"The result is that we hear very little incidents of a situation that gunmen broke into a house in a particular community that have a higher probability of owning firearms," he reasoned.