A Government senator yesterday stopped short of suggesting that more “ordinary” Jamaicans be allowed to obtain licensed firearms.
Kerensia Morrison, who was speaking in the Senate, said that “maybe the time has come” to consider giving “regular, ordinary, honest, decent, (and) hard-working Jamaican citizens better access and opportunity to defend themselves, their homes, and their properties against criminals”.
“Criminals are armed and dangerous. They walk into any public space, any house, any plaza, any church because they know it is highly unlikely that anyone in that church, or in that bus, or in that plaza will have the means to take them out,” she said, while making it clear that this was her personal view.
Morrison was making her contribution to the debate on the extension of the public state of emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division. The vote by the Senate means that the anti-crime measure, which was set to expire on October 2, will remain in place until January 2 next year.
As Morrison spoke, veteran Opposition Senator K.D. Knight interjected, questioning whether she was suggesting that more guns be placed in the hands of citizens.
“It is not about giving guns wantonly, but citizens out there do complain that there are gunmen out there, people who can just walk in. And yet it is so difficult for a hard-working, honest person to get that opportunity,” Morrison responded.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate Kamina Johnson Smith, who piloted the motion, insisted that the effectiveness of the state of emergency was “undisputed”. To support this assertion, she said that in the 160 days since the measure was first imposed, murders and shootings had decreased by 21 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively.
Johnson Smith, who is also minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, revealed that in the 160 days before the state of emergency was declared, the St Catherine North police recorded 82 murders and 72 shooting incidents. This, she said, compared to the 27 murders and 22 shootings reported after it was declared.
However, Johnson Smith sounded a word of caution, saying that “the successes attained so far does not mean that we are where we should be”.