Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang, says that the amendments to the Firearms Act should be completed before the end of this financial year.
“The final drafts are being done now,”
He was speaking following a tour of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Old Hope Road offices in St Andrew on Thursday.
Dr Chang said that the revised legislation, aimed at tackling gun crimes, is critical, as 80 per cent of the homicides in the country were committed with firearms.
He explained that the amendments will streamline the regulation of the legal arms trade and the functions and activities of the FLA.
“The new Firearms Act will seek to, in fact, impose adequate penalties and hold those with illegal firearms accountable for the criminal activity they are up to and those who have licensed firearms will be dealt with, if they don’t license it,”
he pointed out.
Dr Chang said that the legislative improvements will work in tandem with the enhancements being undertaken at the FLA, which regulates the use of legal weapons and ammunition.
The agency has acquired, among other things, BulletTrax marking machines to improve the capacity to capture bullet signatures, as well as laser engraving equipment.
Minister Chang said that laser identification is a critical part of the FLA’s tools to manage the firearm industry in Jamaica.
“The importance of identifying the legal from the illegal firearm becomes much more critical because the current legislation does not do much to separate them and, therefore, if you don’t license your firearm on your birthday, you could be charged with carrying an illegal firearm,”
he pointed out.
Minister Chang said it is important that the FLA has a strong and robust system of accounting for the licensed firearms in the country.
He noted that the agency, like all other departments of the Ministry, is going through a process of modernization
“to make it fully equipped with the requisite technology and structures to manage the security apparatus in the 21st century”.
Dr Chang said that the anti-gang legislation is being reviewed and “we will look at a number of other pieces [of legislation] to come down the road… to give the police the requisite legal tools to deal with the problem we have”.