Guns not our real problem
Assistant Commissioner of Police Ealan Powell made an appearance on TVJ's Smile Jamaica on Tuesday morning to update us on the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) crime plan. His statistics on gun murders were frightening! His summary of the cause of our problems was wrong!
Guns are our problem, he declared. If we can get the guns off the streets, our murder stats will fall. Our borders are porous and hard to police. We have guns coming in from Haiti and other places, and even through our fortified ports, in barrels and refrigerators, he revealed.
Respectfully, ACP Powell, guns are not our real problem! Here are our three real problems that must be solved if we are to have any hope of transforming our current gun and murder problem.
1. Stop popularising gun crimes! The typical newspaper or broadcast media report usually begins like this. "A gunman killed three people at a bar ... ." It makes using a gun sound like a legitimate profession! Think about it! Have you ever read or heard a report that says; "A stone man killed three people at a bar ... ." Or, "A stick man murdered three people today."
impacting role models
Our media reporting has made gun use a profession to which a child can aspire! I took to church with me one Sunday a six-year-old from a disadvantaged community. I called him to the podium to introduce himself and tell the good church people what he wanted to be.
"My name is Michael ... and I want to be a gunman." You can imagine the shock that rippled through the congregation! But who else could he want to grow up to be. His most impacting role models, up to that time in his life, were those around him doing things with guns, that even responsible media such as TVJ reported on in a heroic way. So, stop popularising gun crimes! Report like this: A coward used a gun to ... .
2. Start connecting gun crimes to gun providers, not just the gun users! Unlike the USA, Jamaica does not have legal retail outlets for gun purchases. In the USA, any child with an ID that says 18 or older can walk into a nicely stocked store and view and purchase a gun! But not so in Jamaica!
In addition, social workers and community advocates who work with low-income, vulnerable, inner-city or rural males can testify that a male with a $70,000 gun in his waistband will approach and ask you to "let off a lunch money"! Therefore, the gun in his waist was provided by someone in a better financial position than he is! ACP Powell will tell you, if asked, that the gun provider is usually an unnamed high-income, untouchable professional in private business or public office.
Until we treat the gun providers like we treat the gun users, our gun crimes will never stop. Imagine if the JCF developed the expertise (and the will) to trace guns to gun providers?
Then when a gun user met his end in a shoot-out with the police, or a sentence was handed down in court to the gun user, the police simply picked up the gun provider and gave him the privilege of the identical sentence!? I am dreaming of a new Jamaica! ACP, until we treat the gun providers like we treat the gun users, our gun crimes will never stop.
3. We must all increase our reverence for life! This is the greatest of the three problems.
Like the proverbial story of the frog in slowly warming to boiling water, we have gotten to this murderous place as a society. I was at the gym and a discussion began about a prominent lawyer who had been murdered. A sweet Christian lady contributed, "I knew he was going to be killed one day because he had such an abrasive personality"! My reply: "Since when, in Jamaica, did an abrasive personality mean a person should be killed?" Of course, she protested, but the point is clear: We have all, either overtly or covertly, deliberately or inadvertently, lost our reverence for life!
- Michael Aiken is a minister of religion, a community advocate and convenor of Buff Bay United For Life, a community group established to eliminate domestic abuse, child abuse and stick, stone or gun crimes in Buff Bay, Portland. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.