Row over bullet making machine
The management of the Jamaica Rifle Association (JRA) has shot down claims that they ignored a directive from then security minister, Dwight Nelson, that a machine which could be used to make bullets should have been stored at the Jamaica Defence Force base at Up Park Camp.
The club management has also denied claims that its failure to move the (reloading) machine, which could be used to refurbish used bullet castings, as instructed by Nelson, caused the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) to seize it.
"Anything that bore any semblance to a reloading machine was subsequently dispatched to the FLA from the time that this whole matter came up, and they have been with the FLA since then," JRA president, Col Audley Carter, told The Sunday Gleaner.
"If Minister Nelson told you that he had issued an order that the machine should be brought to Up Park Camp he would be totally inaccurate. I am the person who was in discussions with Up Park Camp, because I thought that to be extremely safe, if reloading was approved it had to be done at those premises.
"It was never signed off on, there was no agreement from Up Park Camp and there was no order from Minister Nelson ...," added Carter.
But Nelson is adamant that he had demanded that the machine be moved to Up Park Camp during his tenure as security minister in the Bruce Golding administration.
"Some members wrote to me expressing concerns that they had seen the machine on the veranda of the JRA. I gave word-of-mouth permission for the machine to be accessed by the JRA with a proviso that it must be stored at the JDF.
"This was because, there, it would allow for greater security and proper auditing of ammo usage. It later emerged that the instruction was ignored," said Nelson, who is among a group of members of the JRA facing disciplinary action for allegedly bring the organisation into disrepute.
But Carter told our news team that the machine is now with the FLA because of a decision made by the leadership of the JRA.
"When the matter was raised by the members, who are now fighting to stay inside the club, that they had seen something untoward, it was the committee of the JRA that then suggested that, to be on the safe side, let us back load all of this equipment to the FLA.
"In discussions with the FLA, both sides thought it would be prudent that the machine should be moved away from the precinct of the rifle association and handed over to the FLA," said Carter, who also claimed that the machine was never used to refurbish spent shells by the JRA.
Carter's comments contradict a July 2014 statement in Parliament by then Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who reported that teenage boys were being hired at one of the country's shooting ranges to refurbish used bullet casings.
Responding to questions tabled by his then opposition counterpart Derrick Smith, Bunting said the Government had to seize four bullet-making machines, which he said were illegally imported.
At that time, Bunting said there was no evidence that ammunition produced by these machines were finding their way to the criminal underworld.
Bunting told the House that one of the machines was taken from the JRA premises on Mountain View Avenue in St Andrew in light of allegations raised about activities surrounding the use of the machine.
He said persons, including senior officers of the police and military, were aware of the machine at the JRA premises. he acted to have them removed because of allegations of teenagers doing some summer jobs and part-time jobs cleaning the spent shells for reuse or sale.
Efforts to get a comment from the FLA have so far been unsuccessful. Minister of National Security Robert Montague has ordered an audit of the JRA and other shooting ranges across the island.
Montague has also announced that he will be implementing measures to tighten security and accountability at the JRA.