Jamaica Observer / In a country where for so long the gun has been the main instrument of violent deaths, it boggles the mind that the State-run Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) has only just begun to trace illegal ammunition in a serious way. We have known from way back that Jamaican criminals had evolved from knives and stones as their favourite tool of death to the gun. Indeed, many readers will recall that 800 murders were recorded during the infamous 1980 General Election.

But if we thought that the bloody election campaign was the reason for those killings and that the statistics of 1980 would go back to normal once the elections were over, how wrong we were. Last year, police recorded 1,600 murders, most by the gun.

That it took the authorities so long, albeit after an embarrassing scandal at the FLA, to get down to brass tacks about tracing how ammunition imported into Jamaica was being used suggests a don’t-care attitude or, worse, a vested interest in turning a blind eye.

In the meantime, this nation has bled and suffered to the point that many migrant Jamaicans are terrified of returning to their beloved homeland, whether to vacation, invest in its development, or to live out the rest of their days reconnected to their roots.

Still, as the old adage goes, better late than never. We want to see the proposed measures by the FLA work and become the norm going forward. Thus we encourage Chief Executive Officer Shane Dalling and his team to press along.

Mr Dalling promised, last Friday, at a press conference that the FLA has amped up measures to trace the purchase and use of legal ammunition across the country as it seeks to determine the extent of leakage of rounds into the illegal trade.

The measures include an ongoing analysis of the annual allocation of ammunition to the country’s 23 dealerships. That audit followed disclosure by former National Security Minister Robert Montague that eight million rounds of ammunition were unaccounted for annually.

That is eight million rounds out of a total import volume of 13 million rounds. Hence, only five million rounds are being used above board. That is a chilling bit of information and could help to explain why criminals are so well supplied with ammunition.

Mr Dalling assured the country that: “We are also working along with the police, because we do suspect that ammunition from the legal trade may be going into the illicit trade…We are dissecting the information as to where it is actually going.”

He also said the FLA found it “strange” that since it had implemented stringent measures to track “every single round” of ammunition, some dealers had been complaining that sales had fallen by as much as 80 per cent.

“We can only suspect that something was happening. Why would an accountability measure cause sales to fall by 80 per cent?” he asked.

We too find it strange and highly suspicious.

Our advice to the FLA is to ignore such complaints and dig deep into the old practices. Every illegal round of ammunition found could mean an innocent life saved.

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