Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Licensed gun dealers in Jamaica have revealed that a shortage of ammunition in the United States (US) is impacting their ability to meet the increased local demand for guns and bullets, spawned by the spike in the number of licensed firearm holders.
This comes on the heels of declarations by the police force and army, less than one month ago, that their supply of bullets has not been affected by an ammunition shortage in the US.
Unlike the security forces, private firearm holders have been caught dead in the cross hairs of the munitions shortage.
"What is happening is that ammunition is being consumed in large quantities in America. The US arms dealers have to satisfy the domestic demand, then what is left is for overseas customers," explained Kent Brown, operator of arms company KBA Dealers Jamaica Limited.
Demand is Up
He added: "The domestic civilian demand is up, as well as law enforcement and military demand, and that is what is eating up a significant chunk of what's available, so what used to take a few weeks to arrive is now taking months to arrive because a lot of the stuff is back ordered."
The arms dealer explained that one of the manufacturers he orders from in the US told him a month ago that they are still clearing back orders from 2012.
"I still haven't gotten the green light as to when that particular order will be filled, and that order was placed in February 2013," said Brown, as he outlined the extent to which the shortage has hampered his business.
Brown also pointed out that the rush for bullets and guns in the US has coincided with an increase in the demand for ammunitions in Jamaica.
Last week, The Sunday Gleaner reported that Jamaica's gun-control authority issued more than 8,000 new gun licences to private individuals between July 2011 and early August 2013.
That was more than the total number of gun licences issued during the previous five years.
"The need for arms is at its highest because of the crime rate. Companies and citizens are purchasing. They want their arms. But it is just that it is taking a longer time. Many are getting frustrated because it is taking so long to get the gun in hand," said Brown.
The arms dealer also explained that under normal circumstances, guns and ammunition bought from countries other than the US take a much longer time to arrive in the island because of human-rights checks and certain other security clearances that are needed by the companies which aren't familiar with Jamaica.
Orville Henriques, operator of Central Dealers, a Manchester-based gun shop, confirmed that the US bullet shortage has hit the Jamaican market.
"It's affecting everybody, it is affecting me somewhat. However, during the time before the shortage I stocked up so it would keep me for a while, so I am not as badly affected as other people," said Henriques.
The gun shop owner said it is inevitable that a shortage of munitions in the US would negatively impact the local market because bullets and guns are not manufactured locally.
Henriques also warned that the bullet shortage will send the price of ammunition shooting through the roof.
"And, with the exchange rate being what it is, that will have some impact on the price as well," he said.
The arms dealer said there was no doubt that there has been an increase in the number of Jamaicans legally seeking to purchase munitions.
"I don't have the numbers but it has been tremendous," said Henriques.
He said determining when the shortage will end is harder than hitting a moving target.
"I don't know how long it will continue but we are keeping our fingers crossed," he said.