More guns out!
Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Reporter
More private Jamaican citizens have armed themselves with licenced pistols, data from the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) have revealed. This is in the wake of hundreds of gun licences being approved and issued to citizens and companies since the gun-control body relaxed several stipulations it previously enforced.
Since 2009, the written test, which was the most difficult moving target for many applicants to hit, has been removed.
The FLA has also reduced the practical shooting test pass mark from a perfect 10 to 80 per cent.
Citizens and companies have seemingly taken advantage of the less stringent requirements.
One critic of the revised requirements claims the authority's decision to revamp the gun-permit processes is riddled with pitfalls. "The FLA says it's ok to miss your target, and you don't have to be able to read or write either," was how a source close to the situation described the recasting of the requirements.
According to the figures provided by Donna Graham-Gayle, CEO of the FLA, in 2007, the FLA issued 76 gun licences. Last year, the number of gun licences issued by the authority swelled to 2,386. Errol Strong, chairman of the FLA, told The Sunday Gleaner that there appeared to be an increase in the number of security companies arming their guards.
The FLA data revealed that between 2007 and last week Thursday, the gun-control body issued some 6,055 firearm licences. Most of the licences were issued in 2010.
Some of those licences included permission given to security guards to use existing firearms for which licences had already been granted.
The authority also noted that "licences are not necessarily issued on the date that an application is approved, but when the applicant completes the competence assessment and subsequently purchases the firearm(s)".
The FLA stats also show a massive jump in the number of gun-permit applications received by the authority since 2009.
Figures explode in '09
According to the data that cover the period October 2006-July 7, 2011, the authority received just fewer than 2,000 applications in 2007, and 510 in 2008. However, the gun-permit figures exploded the following year. In 2009, the FLA received more than 3,000 applications. The gun-control body noted that a single application may be used for multiple firearm licences.
The exponential increase in applications continued into last year as some 4,184 private Jamaicans and local companies applied for brand-new licences for firearms, or replacements for old ones. Up to July 7, 2011, close to 1,700 applications were submitted to the gun-control body.
Between 2007 and last week Thursday, the FLA approved more than 5,600 applications for guns. The authority again noted that "a single application may be used for multiple firearm licences". The lion's share of the approvals occurred in 2009 and 2010. During that same period, 446 applications for permits were denied, with the bulk of the refusals happening this year, even though the calendar year is not yet complete.
The gun-control authority has revoked some 165 licences between 2006 and June 30, 2011.
Licences revoked for the period 2006 - June 30, 2011