With just under six hundred murders reported since the start of the year, there are signs that Jamaicans are rushing in droves to arm themselves with licensed firearms.
In the last year alone, according to the Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA), the average number of persons applying for gun permits each month has almost tripled.
Executive Director of the FLA, Dr Kenroy Wedderburn, told The Gleaner yesterday that since the start of the year the agency has processed more than 3,800 applications for firearm licences at an average of 550 per month.
These applications, according to the FLA boss, were coming from “all kinds of people.”
“A couple of years ago, we were processing a little over 200 per month. Now we are processing, on average, 550 per month,” Wedderburn revealed.
“Regular office workers, professionals, contractors, business people, security officers … across the board,” Wedderburn said.
He further explained that after a very rigorous vetting process, which includes home visits and background checks, only an average of between 12 and 15 per cent of these applications are denied.
The latest Jamaica Constabulary Force Periodic Serious and Violent Crimes Review shows that since the start of the year, there have been 590 reported murders.
However, the statistics show that this is 15 per cent or 106 less murders when compared with the corresponding period last year.
It also shows that there were 688 reported cases of shootings; 1,311 reported cases of robbery and 1,527 reported cases of break-ins. Except for break-ins, which went up one per cent, the numbers recorded for shootings and robberies represent a decrease.
The FLA boss said data captured during the application process showed that most persons indicated that they wanted the firearm “to protect life and property”.
Another reason for the jump in gun-permit applications, Wedderburn asserted, is the fact that the approval process is now quicker.
“A few years ago, processing [of permits] took about three years. But after we did our process review, word started getting out that the turnaround time had improved and then we started getting the influx,” he explained.