Sun | May 24, 2020

Guns for all? - Ja-born, South Florida-based politician cautions against relaxation of gun laws

Published:Sunday | October 6, 2019 | 12:32 AM

The commissioner for Broward County in South Florida, United States, Jamaica-born Dale Holness, says despite calls for relaxed regulations to allow for more law-abiding citizens in Jamaica to acquire a legal firearm for self-preservation, the authorities must be careful those guns do not end up in the wrong hands.

Jamaica suffers from a high murder rate with an average of 1,200 persons being murdered each year for the past decade, with the gun as the weapon of choice. The majority of the Jamaican population are unarmed while the guns lie in the hands of criminals, law enforcement and licensed firearm holders.

“There has to be some process. There must not be an unfiltered process. I agree that people who need to defend themselves need to get a firearm, but care must be taken as things can go awry,” Holness told The Sunday Gleaner.

Women are some of the most vulnerable in the Jamaican society; and recently there were cries that the Firearms Licensing Authority had been making it extra difficult for women to acquire a gun.

There are also calls from sections of the Jamaican society that citizens without a criminal record, and who can pass the required examination to prove they are competent in handling a firearm, should be able to acquire a legal weapon without the hassle that currently obtains.

Holness said he was aware of the situation but still cautioned that the system needs to be tweaked, but with certain measures to prevent a free-for-all that might end in mass shootings akin to what has taken place in the United States for decades.

On August 3, twenty-one-year-old Patrick Crusius armed himself with a high-powered weapon he bought legally and carried out a murderous rampage at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. He killed 22 persons and injured dozens of others. That shooting took place just hours after another mass shooting in Virginia. There have also been a number of mass shootings in schools and colleges across the United States.

Jamaica has experienced multiple murders where the gun was used, but no individual incident on the scale of those that occur in the US.

“We see what is happening here; when the firearms get into the wrong people’s hands and what the results are. The more firearms there are, it’s the more they get in the wrong hands,” Holness said.