The gun left behind

The Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) says it has completed a probe into the circumstances under which a powerful rifle, brought into the island with a Canadian sport shooting team earlier this year, was believed to have been sold to a member of the Jamaica Rifle Association (JRA).

An FLA spokesman told the Jamaica Observer that the results of the investigation, along with a recommendation, will be sent to the board of the authority. However, he opted not to say more in order to “avoid prejudicing the case”, which is being closely watched by licensed firearm holders and dealers who believe an attempt will be made to suppress it.

Late last week the FLA confirmed information from a reliable Jamaica Observer source that it had seized the 7.62 rifle after Customs detected that the Canadian team, on their departure, were one rifle short of the number they were allowed on entry for the competition.

“The person coming in was given an import permit — a temporary permit — to bring the rifle in for the purpose of this competition, and also given the export to leave the country with the gun,” the FLA spokesman said.

“The sole purpose for which the FLA gave authorisation for that weapon was for it to come into the country for competition shooting. A condition of the approval is for it to leave with the owner — that is standard for all competitions,” the FLA spokesman explained.

“The only way the owner could have left his gun in Jamaica is if somebody had purchased it,” the FLA spokesman argued.

He said that after being informed about the breach by Customs, the FLA received a written request from the JRA for the authority to facilitate a transfer of a rifle to another member of the association who was going to buy the weapon.

“When the JRA took the gun from the Canadian man, we didn’t know. When we checked the inventory of the JRA they had no such gun in their possession,” he said, adding that when the FLA pointed that out, the JRA explained how it came to be in possession of the rifle.

“So on that basis we went there immediately and seized the firearm. I doubt whether the executive of the JRA was aware that this was taking place,” the spokesman said, suggesting that only one person was involved.

“It is a criminal act to import a gun into the country for one specific purpose and then sell it. You cannot sell a gun to anyone without first owning it and without FLA approving the ownership of that gun to you,” he said, adding that even though the JRA is a licensed firearms dealer, it cannot buy a gun from anyone without FLA authorisation.

The FLA spokesman said the person whom, it believes, had purchased the rifle, faces the possibility of being charged with illegal possession of firearm, trafficking, as well as aiding and abetting illegal importation of a firearm.

Meanwhile, he said the authority will contact its international partner, the Canadian Government — through the high commission here — on the matter.

Additionally, he said the FLA will be tightening the procedures for all guns brought in for competition. However, he did not give specifics.

“It’s a serious matter and a great cause for concern,” he said.

That concern was shared on Saturday by a policeman, and two licensed firearm holders who pointed out to the Sunday Observer that the 7.62 rifle is among the weapons being used by criminals here.

The three, in separate interviews, basically expressed the same sentiment that they are awaiting the outcome of the matter.