Sat | Jun 15, 2019

Editorial | Elusive smugglers

Published:Saturday | June 8, 2019 | 12:26 AM

Six more illegal guns found. More than 1,500 assorted rounds of ammunition seized. We are digesting this news that more weapons and ammunition intended for the killing fields were intercepted at the Montego Bay wharf. The most disconcerting thing is this, though: “no one was held” in connection with this find.

It has become routine. Illegal items are seized and no one is ever arrested and held accountable. In one instance, more than 100 guns arrived at the Montego Bay wharf; this case has not been resolved several months later. There have been other significant finds at wharves in Kingston, too.

Criminals use guns to kill, wound or maim people and generally disrupt the lives of communities. Guns are the bane of our existence, and the impact of gun crimes on this nation’s health and economic prospects is having a wearying effect.

One could sense Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ frustration with gun violence when he seemed to wonder aloud before an audience of policemen and women whether a gun amnesty would help to get some of these guns off the streets. There have been various ‘get the guns’ campaigns, resulting in few finds and even fewer arrests. The peace once enjoyed by many quiet communities is now shattered by the eerie sounds of gunshots.

If, as the statistics indicate, most firearms purchased in the United States (US) are legally acquired, then the guns that come into the island from the US get here via secondary sales, where they become illegal. We surmise that there is a network involved in the purchase, transportation and distribution of these weapons and ammunition.

Are we to understand that these are professional smugglers who are so well organised that they elude detection while using official government channels to ship their illicit cargo? And in this modern tech era, when more and more information is being demanded to identify anyone doing business, these shipments cannot be traced to the point of origin? What about the consignees? And the agents who are used to ship these items, are they ever held accountable?

We applaud the workers who made this latest find, though we cannot help wondering about those shipments they may have missed which then landed into the hands of criminals.

NEED TO WORRY

It would also be instructive to hear whether Jamaica is benefiting from the work of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which targets the illegal movement of firearms bought in the US. HSI is reporting that its investigations have resulted in bilateral interdictions and information sharing, which identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal gangs around the world, including in the Caribbean.

Here is why we should be worried about this threat to our national security. Officials have identified 145 illegal entry points to the island that are not well manned, but for a few boats. Yet, people are smuggling guns through the official ports of entry. This helps to put things into perspective, for if they brazenly use the official channels, where there are X-ray machines and other means of detection, what happens around our porous borders?

This latest case in Montego Bay is significant, for it appears to offer proof that there are persons who are hell-bent on robbing and murdering Jamaicans and that they are boldly using the formal commercial channels to do their gun smuggling, and they are doing so with impunity.