Editorial

Shoddy FLA needs urgent overhaul

Monday, July 31, 2017

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One news report last week reminded us that the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) was created in 2005 by Parliament as a statutory body within the Ministry of National Security to grant, renew, and revoke firearm licences in keeping with international standards.

Based on available evidence, the FLA operates far below desired standards — international or otherwise.

Along with the allegations that the FLA has issued gun licences to people with shady characters comes the admission from the agency that its operations have been sadly lacking in required efficiencies.

Chief Executive Officer Mr Shane Dalling is reported as saying that there are licensed gun holders who have not taken their weapons in for inspection — as mandated by law — in years, some for as long as 14 years.

A recent enforcement drive has apparently led to a rush of people seeking to standardise their situation. Failure to do so by last Saturday, according to Mr Dalling, could lead to gun holders being charged and their firearms seized.

The peculiar situation highlighted by the much-publicised Patrick Powell court case would obviously have piled pressure on the FLA.

Then there are the often-heard stories of licensed gun holders who are known to have found themselves on the wrong side of the law for one reason or another. We are hearing now of controversy surrounding the re-granting of licences which were previously revoked because gun holders went before the courts on criminal charges.

And there is the complaint in the public domain that some licensed gun holders should never have been granted permits in the first place because of their tendency towards aggression in their everyday behaviour.

We note the recent case of the late Mr Warrenton Barham, a St Elizabeth businessman and former politician. Mr Barham allegedly shot and killed a young woman before being killed by police.

Persistent reports in St Elizabeth suggest Mr Barham had a habit of threatening others with his gun. The police say Mr Barham's gun was confiscated after one such report, but was returned to him when the complainant failed to make a formal complaint.

It all suggests need for a complete overhaul of how the FLA operates. That reordering should carefully direct the appropriate role of the police in the granting of gun licences.

In that respect, this newspaper welcomes news that National Security Minister Mr Robert Montague has ordered “a review of the FLA's process, procedures and systems”. We note that the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) also has an interest.

In the overall context, Mr Dennis Meadows — a former candidate for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party in parliamentary elections who has recused himself from the FLA board pending the MOCA investigation — has made an interesting intervention.

Mr Meadows, who says he is the victim of a “smear campaign”, has proposed that Government “gives due consideration to the thought of removing the FLA from direct political control in the near future, as it is often the target of political mischief aimed at scoring narrow political points”.

Mr Meadows has suggested that independence for the FLA could be achieved through “the setting up of a commission of Parliament” with “its members appointed by the governor general”.

We applaud Mr Meadows for what sounds — on the surface at least — to be a very sensible suggestion.

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