Jamaica Boasts Gun Control Success but Security Challenges Remain

The government of Jamaica has announced a rise in seizures of illegal weapons as part of a long-running gun control initiative, however a more coordinated response to violence and insecurity will be needed if authorities wish to bring gun crime under control.

Jamaica’s Minister of National Security Robert Montague announced that between January 1 and March 11 this year, authorities seized 161 illegal arms and 1,684 rounds of ammunition, up from 118 guns and 1,592 rounds seized over the same period last year.

The weapons seizures are part of Jamaica’s “Get the Guns” campaign, which it launched in late 2015.

The program is targeted at intercepting illegal arms entering the island and recovering guns from criminals and offers citizens financial rewards for information on illegal weapons. So far, it has led to the seizure of over 1,000 guns and 13,000 rounds of ammunition, reported the Jamaica Gleaner.

According to Minister Montague, the government is now also working on a review of the Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA) to assess how best to tighten gun ownership restrictions to ensure legal gun owners are properly vetted and trained.

Montague also announced that the government is adopting new forensic ballistics technology known as Bullettrax.

“We cannot stamp out the scourge of crime and murders in Jamaica unless we overcome our gun problem. That is why we have been on a serious mission to tackle the problem comprehensively and from various fronts,” the minister said in comments reported by the Gleaner.

“A big part of the effort is in building our forensic and ballistics capabilities. We are in the technology age, and Jamaica is committed to the strategic use of science and technology in this fight to create a safer and more prosperous Jamaica,” he added.

InSight Crime Analysis

Crime and violence are serious issues in Jamaica and the availability of firearms plays a significant role in this insecurity, especially in areas where powerful gangs tightly control vulnerable communities at the point of a gun.

According to comments made by Jamaica’s then-Police Commissioner Carl Williams at the launch of the Get the Guns campaign, firearms were involved in 75 percent of murders between 2005 and 2015, resulting in over 10,000 deaths. A further 9,000 people were shot and injured, while guns were used to commit 1,200 rapes over that period.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Caribbean

Given this context, any efforts to seize illegal weapons, control arms trafficking and tighten up restrictions over legal gun access should be seen as potentially beneficial measures. However, the relationship between gun control and insecurity is rarely straightforward and these measures alone will not be sufficient to tackle gun crime in Jamaica, the roots of which run much deeper than simple access to weapons.

To significantly reduce gun crime in Jamaica, gun control efforts need to be accompanied by strategies to break the grip of armed gangs, tackle corruption in and improve the efficacy of the security and judicial institutions, and address the underlying conditions of poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity in Jamaica’s deprived areas.