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Guns seized by police melted down

Roughly 2,000 firearms have been melted down in a blazing furnace as part of an effort designed to combat gun trafficking and corruption in Jamaica while reducing violent crime.

Police, government and UN officials destroyed pistols and revolvers by pitching them into a kiln glowing bright orange at a cement factory in the capital of Kingston.

Most of the guns were decommissioned or seized in police operations over the years.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting, who has been in office for just over a month, said the destruction of the weapons is an important first step toward managing the sizeable stockpiles of guns in Jamaica and reducing the risk of theft.

"The removal will help to reduce the risks of these weapons being possibly diverted back into the illicit trade," Mr Bunting said at the Jamaica Constabulary Force armoury.

William Godnick, a co-ordinator with the UN Regional Centre for Peace Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, said the destruction of the guns "is the beginning of a long process in which we hope to destroy a much larger quantity".

The primary goal is "to prevent theft and loss", Mr Godnick said.

Last year, a Jamaican police sergeant was sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing guns and bullets from the Kingston armoury. He was arrested after agents seized 18 high-powered weapons and 11,000 rounds of ammunition that were stolen for sale to criminals.

Mr Bunting, who recently announced that he hopes to develop new policies encouraging police use of non-lethal weapons such as Tasers to stem a high rate of police killings, told reporters that reducing stockpiles can also "remove temptation" from rogue officers who may plant weapons.

He said a crime spike so far in 2012 shows that advances the Caribbean country has made combating gangs and crime since 2010 are fragile. "We can't let up in our efforts to combat crime," Mr Bunting said.

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