GUN LOSS ALARM
Up to 10 licensed firearms stolen monthly; Al Miller raps cops for being too quick to lay charges
With an average of five to 10 licensed firearms being stolen monthly in Jamaica in 2022, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the island’s gun regulator said he is “gravely concerned” about the number of weapons falling into the hands of criminals...
With an average of five to 10 licensed firearms being stolen monthly in Jamaica in 2022, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the island’s gun regulator said he is “gravely concerned” about the number of weapons falling into the hands of criminals.
That observation comes hours after the police confirmed that veteran lawmaker Phillip Paulwell is among five people who are to be charged for losing their firearms.
Paulwell, the leader of opposition business in the House of Representatives, said that his licensed firearm was stolen from his car in Hope Pastures, St Andrew, in July after he made an emergency stop.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled that he should be charged.
Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) CEO Shane Dalling has disclosed that the majority of guns reported stolen were pilfered from cars.
“That is why we insist that licence holders follow the safety measures to ensure that their firearm is secured at all times,” Dalling said in a Gleaner interview on Monday.
The head of the regulatory body shared that Jamaica has approximately 45,000 licensed firearm holders and that criminals often target events held at high-density venues like the National Stadium, where licensed firearm holders tend leave their guns in their vehicles.
“Most cases that we have are persons leaving them in a car, leaving them under their seats, leaving them in the car and someone breaks the glass and takes out the firearm,” Dalling said.
“The Firearms Act requires that the person should all times secure the firearm in such a manner that it does not get into the hands of unauthorised persons, and when not in use, it should be kept in a safe. Persons should at all times ensure that they have custody and control of their firearm, and if it is not in use, it should be locked away,” Dalling said.
Section 41(a) of the Firearms Act says that “any person who, being the holder of a licence, certificate or permit in respect of a firearm, losing such firearm through negligence on his part, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine of $100,000, with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding 12 months”.
Dalling noted that whenever the police intervene and charge persons for losing their firearm, it discourages others from being carefree. He also disclosed that if a licensed firearm holder loses a gun under what the FLA deems to be negligent circumstances, any other permit that he/she possesses would be revoked and the firearm taken.
However, the Reverend Merrick ‘Al’ Miller, who in 2011 was convicted of negligence resulting in the alleged theft of his licensed firearm, said the police “should not be quick to charge just because a firearm is lost”.
Miller believes that a thorough investigation should be done before charges are laid against licensed firearm holders.
“The FLA and the police, for instance, tend to lean on this false premise that all lost firearms border on negligence, and it seemingly is to be an assumed position, and why they draw that is because they make the assumption on the basis that the firearm was not on the person,” the popular clergyman said.
Miller has taken issue with the requirement that the licensed firearm holder should always have custody of his firearm.
“They tend to say that if it is not on your person, then it is suspected as negligence. That matter is one I feel that as a society needs to be raised with the authorities and the Government. We need to look at it because that’s where the problem lies in many cases,” the pastor said.
“You take even the end of my own case … . Not only was I within 30 yards from my vehicle, but it was positioned between two vehicles and two unsavoury characters went in my vehicle and took my bag which was under the front seat of the car.”
Miller said that even though his gun was recovered two weeks after it was stolen, he was still charged and found guilty.
Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, who is representing Paulwell, insists that the FLA will have to prove negligence.
“The safe place that the FLA contemplates is a vault, but there are exceptions. You have to prove that the person was negligent in all the circumstances, and they have a reasonable explanation as to why they had it where it was,” Samuels said.