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Jamaica is considered one of the most violent countries in the Caribbean and has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Levels of violence related to gang activities are particularly high in the country, and the illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons is widespread.1 Most of the guns used in violent crimes, however, reportedly originate from the United States, where they are usually bought legally and then illegally shipped to Jamaica.2

In terms of weapons and ammunition management, Jamaica is a signatory to the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials. It has also signed and ratified the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Firearms Protocol. The country benefits from the SALIENT programme of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA).It has also received support from the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) to improve disposal capacities4 and the tracing of illicit firearms.The country’s national legislation on firearms is considered relatively rigorous;6 it has notably established a special Gun Court to deal with firearms offences.7


1 “Jamaica,” DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, February 2, 2015,

2 Azam Ahmed, “How American Gun Laws Are Fuelling Jamaica’s Homicide Crisis,” New York Times, August 25, 2019,

3 “National Programme Launched to Reduce Illegal Supply of Guns”, UNDP Multi Country Office in Jamaica, June 26, 2022,

4 “UNLIREC Assists Jamaica to Combat Illicit Firearms through Firearms Destruction and Capacity building,” UNLIREC, 2012,

5 “UNLIREC Holds Serial Number Restoration Courses for Jamaica,” UNLIREC, February 15, 2022,

6 Glaister Leslie, Confronting the Don: The Political Economy of Gang Violence in Jamaica, (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2010), p. 36,

7 Jamaican Ministry of Justice, Gun Court Act,

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Map of Jamaica

Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, no accidental explosions have been reported in Jamaica.

Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

Several cases of diversion have been reported in Jamaica, at least two of which included ammunition.

Table 1. Cases of diversion of arms, ammunition and explosives in Jamaica





Montego Bay

The following items were reported to be stolen from a private security company: 15 revolvers, 4 shotguns and 150 rounds of assorted ammunition.1



The Jamaican police reportedly recovered at least 18 firearms (other sources mention almost 40 firearms) – M16 rifles, shotguns, Uzi sub-machine guns, pistols and revolvers – and approximatively 10,000 rounds of ammunition in an inner-city community. The firearms and ammunition originated entirely from the national police armoury, which conclusively linked police forces to the distribution of weapons and ammunition to criminals.2


1 Horace Hines, “19 Guns Stolen,” Jamaica Observer, May 27, 2019,

2 Glaister Leslie, Confronting the Don, p. 2; Arthur Hall, “Monster Ammo find in Mountain View,” Jamaica Gleaner, February 5, 2010,


To decrease the above-mentioned risks of accidental explosions and diversion, Jamaica currently disposes of its ammunition but exact numbers in tonnes are not available.


To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Jamaica:

  • Technical assistance in the preventive maintenance of the two hydraulic shears used to deactivate unserviceable and seized firearms, or financial assistance to procure a smelting machine to deactivate these firearms;
  • Technical assistance in the maintenance of the ammunition burning tank used to destroy unserviceable and surplus ammunition; and
  • Technical assistance in the development of simplified standard operating procedures that conform to the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) and can be easily adapted by the relevant state and private entities.

Source: Jamaica, PoA assistance request, 2020; Jamaica, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) (New York: Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the UN, 2020).

Published Date: Monday 21 of August 2023