Don’t smear FLA rep­u­ta­tion with broad brush

Jamaica Gleaner - - SATURDAY -

THE ED­I­TOR, Sir: ECENT REV­E­LA­TIONS from the Pa­trick Pow­ell case have brought to the fore the in­ef­fi­cien­cies of the ex­ec­u­tive agency re­spon­si­ble for the li­cens­ing of firearms in Ja­maica, the Firearm Li­cens­ing Au­thor­ity (FLA).

An ir­re­spon­si­ble state­ment from our min­is­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity, Robert Mon­tague, la­belled the FLA “bro­ken and cor­rupt”. While we may not be privy to the same in­for­ma­tion that the min­is­ter has, it is clear that his state­ment was not ben­e­fi­cial to the FLA and the wider lo­cal gun com­mu­nity.

One could ar­gue his re­marks were a veiled at­tempt to throw cold water on the for­mer min­is­ter’s ten­ure as se­cu­rity min­is­ter in a bid to score po­lit­i­cal points.

We also be­lieve that con­text and per­spec­tive are im­por­tant. The li­cens­ing and is­su­ing of firearms in Ja­maica is now a much smoother process than it was 10 years ago, and even with­out be­ing privy to in­for­ma­tion of the in­ner work­ings of the FLA, the im­prove­ments are ir­refutable.

Li­censed firearm hold­ers are no longer re­quired to walk around with big, cum­ber­some books for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. These have since been re­placed with a se­cure ID card. Ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess­ing for firearms, which tra­di­tion­ally took four or five years, now takes a lit­tle over a year, and in some in­stances even less.

Bal­lis­tics are also rou­tinely done for ev­ery new firearm

Rpur­chased since 2007, and the re­newal process is now sig­nif­i­cantly eas­ier. Ex­ten­sive back­ground checks are con­ducted on all can­di­dates, and bio­met­ric data is shared with lo­cal law en­force­ment and in­ter­na­tional coun­ter­parts to en­sure can­di­dates do not have crim­i­nal records over­seas.

NU­MER­OUS IM­PROVE­MENTS

Through­out the life­time of the agency, there have also been nu­mer­ous other im­prove­ments.

The ac­tions of a small group of cor­rupt agents within the FLA, cou­pled with the min­is­ter’s ut­ter­ances, caused the United States to tem­po­rar­ily ban the im­port of firearms to Ja­maica. This ac­tion comes at great eco­nomic con­se­quence to Ja­maica and de­lays the pos­si­bil­ity for hon­est, law-abid­ing Ja­maicans to pur­chase firearms.

We en­cour­age the min­is­ter to be more mind­ful of the im­pact of his state­ments lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. Take the nec­es­sary time to ex­am­ine the in­sti­tu­tional weak­nesses and ad­dress them in short or­der. We live in an ex­cep­tion­ally vi­o­lent country with the fourth-high­est mur­der rate per capita in the world.

We can­not af­ford for lawabid­ing cit­i­zens to be held hostage by a few crim­i­nal el­e­ments. Let’s put our heads down, tackle these chal­lenges, and get on with the business of pro­vid­ing our cit­i­zenry with the abil­ity to pro­tect their life and prop­erty. OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER Lo­cal Gun and SelfDe­fence Group

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