Sunday | July 1, 2001

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Illegal guns, ammo fetch high prices

- File

A collection of guns including the Glock, the 9mm and shotgun which were seized by the police. Klao Bell, Staff Reporter

GUNS of varying makes and models are available in illegal sales in Jamaica, some at very high prices.

While the police have seized more than 200 illegal guns since the start of the year, the sale of the firearms continues to thrive, with the wide range of prices linked to the type of weapon, the time of year or whether or not there is "war" or peace in some areas.

Detective Inspector Michael Scott of the Flying Squad told The Sunday Gleaner last week that he has heard of "9mm weapons going for $80,000 (each) while bullets cost $60 to $100 per round," in the criminal underworld.

But a man from east Kingston who identifies himself as a "former shotta" (former gunman) gave The Sunday Gleaner an insight into the illegal gun trade.

"You can get guns for $14,000, $3,000, $6,000 - it all depends on who you buy it from. More time man all trade them weed fi gun. You have man weh sell gun. Them just deal with that alone, some man sell shot - them just specialise in that alone. Guns don't have any fixed price, you pay different price for the kind a weapon," he said.

"Machine or high-power weapon sell more on the road," he added. "They want their weapon to be heavier than what the police have - AK-47 sell fi all $70,000 to $100,000. Shot fi all a Magnum cost anything from $50 to $100 (per round)."

Between January and June 17 the police recovered 222 guns. These included six rifles, three submachine guns; four shot-guns; 42 home-made guns; 105 semi-automatic pistols and 62 revolvers. Their origins span the globe.

"We have seen guns from all parts of the world pass through this lab," said Deputy Superintendent Fred Hibbert of the Forensic Laboratory. "Japanese make, Iraqi and Russian models, some of these are really cheap. Some, like the Cobray M11 seem popular with druggists."

The Cobray M11 is a 9mm automatic weapon that is advertised at a cost of US$395 on the Web site of a United States gun dealer.

Other brands of weapons which have been tested at the lab since the start of the year are Beretta, Glock, Heckler and Koch, Colt, Sig and Taurus. These guns, according to popular magazines Guns and Ammo and Handguns Buyer's Guide, cost between US$500 and US$1,320.

A Glock 17 or 19 ranges in price from US$616 ($28,336) to US$739 ($33,994). A Beretta 92FS costs US$675 ($31,050) and a Sig P229 depending on the features, costs between US$$795 ($36,570) and US$1,320 ($60,720).

One of only two authorised gun dealers on the island (who did not want his name or business identified in this story), explained that there is fascination with Glocks because "the magazine capacity is usually more than normal. It holds about 15 rounds while normal guns hold around 13. The newer models are made from a lighter material called polymer, it gives it a space-age kind of look." Glocks are available at his store for between $28,500 to $60,000.

But the police emphasise that money is hardly a factor when it comes to gun distribution and acquisition in Jamaica.

"The average little man does not have to find hard core cash to afford a gun because if he is the keeper/guardian of cocaine, the dons ensure that he has a weapon. But also - those who have guns commit robberies and are involved in crime so their illegal activities finance their weapon upkeep," Det. Insp. Scott said.

Costs become important when the persons who are assigned the weapon are careless enough to lose it.

"If they lose a gun, the family is asked to pay for it or they get killed," Det. Insp. Scott said.

"The other day a gun was seized by the police and we heard that the don was demanding $140,000 for it - it was an AK-47. Another time, a man came in and gave up himself to the police when he lost a gun, because he knew that he would have to go to 'trial' for it, the penalty is automatically death."

The former gunman from east Kingston disclosed that there is also discrimination in sales.

"If a uptown youth want a gun it a go cost him more," he said. "But if you know a man weh have a gun weh him waan get rid of especially if him get it off police, security or business man (that was killed), him wi try get rid of it. But the first thing a man want to know when they buy a gun is if it clean."

By "clean" he means that the gun has not been used previously in committing a murder.

Corporal Suzette Wright from the Constabulary Com-munication Network confirmed that that is a serious consideration.

"If that gun has been used in other crimes and the police have no other suspects then the person found with the weapon automatically be-comes the number one suspect," Cpl. Wright said. "Unless it can be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was nowhere near the crime scene."

The east Kingston man said that the price of guns goes up when there is a "war" because more guns are in demand. He added that the supply of guns is constant but increases, "during Christmas and other busy time when yu know seh nuff barrel a run and the port people dem caan check all wey a come in."

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