Editorial | Find the smugglers
Fifteen high-powered weapons and 4,000 rounds of ammunition meant to augment the massive firepower of the island's criminal network are now in the hands of the police. Few details of the find have emerged. However, we feel that whether the find was intelligence-led or the security forces and customs personnel simply stumbled on it, the happy result is that these dangerous weapons were prevented from getting into criminal hands.
Guns illegally trafficked into the island have claimed thousands of lives over the last decade. Gun violence has become Jamaica's most urgent problem. The sharp rise in gun crimes is the thing that has created the greatest heartbreak for mothers, fathers and children. The human cost to Jamaica and its economy has been incalculable.
Understandably, news that the weapons and thousands of ammunition were seized at Port Bustamante is being widely applauded by many persons. But the public is not satisfied that, so far, no arrest has been made. There is a distinct clamour for a crackdown on the importers in order to shrink the size of the illegal gun market. People have been calling for distinct gun trafficking legislation that will deliver harsh punishment to those guilty of such nefarious activity.
Jamaican law-enforcement agencies have long recognised the connection between access to guns and the ever-escalating murder rate. This is why several strategies and initiatives, from the establishment of a Gun Court in 1974 to the more recent Get the Guns Campaign, have been designed to reduce illegal weapons. However, it has been a constant struggle, and though dozens of guns have been seized over time, the weapons continue to get into the hands of criminals, whether through hire or purchase.
Tracking the sources responsible for the illegal importation of guns is vital to deny the criminal network access. Guns are expensive, and there is considerable paperwork involved in their purchase in the United States. It is inconceivable that there is no paper trail to identify the source of this illegal cargo. Who was the consignee in Jamaica, for example?
These are the questions being most frequently asked in every discussion on social media. Tracing the weapons can begin with a request for help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. By their tracing system, they can use a gun's unique serial number to identify where, and by whom, the gun was originally purchased because the system allows them to locate the first dealer to have sold the gun at retail.
Tracking the sources of illegal weapons, whether they were imported from the United States or Haiti, or both, or other sources, is important, since every available tool should be employed on land and sea to reduce gun trafficking. Those who profit from flooding our streets with guns should be identified and swiftly punished.
We note recent efforts by the Government to shore up the unmanned points of entry into the island, but with this latest find, it appears that smuggling is also happening at the official port of entry.
Gun violence and trafficking are evil companions. We urge a thorough investigation that will help to identify those responsible for this latest find, as a successful outcome may prove to be a turning point in the vicious war being waged on citizens in all neighbourhoods across the country.