Thu | Apr 19, 2018

Gordon Robinson | Gunning for disaster

Published:Sunday | March 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM

To say my recommendation that disarming the citizenry should be a vital tool in any successful crime-fighting initiative has gone over like a lead balloon would be an understatement.

Readers, especially male readers, bombarded me with stories of how their guns "saved" them from criminal attack. I've listened as politely as I'm capable but find these tales (tall or short) tiresome. They expose an old-fashioned, chauvinistic, violent mindset that's both explanatory of the reason crime is where it is and contrary to their earnestly professed Christian beliefs. They all seem to be saying, "I know Jesus said turn the other cheek (a metaphor for 'find peaceful means to make it impossible for THAT person to slap you again'), but I'll only do so if my other cheek can fire a gun."

Many of these defenders of private handgun ownership have never fired a gun in anger or defence - some would injure themselves if they did - and several have private security that allows them to put their guns to its proper use, namely, an aid in attracting the opposite sex, like sexting, exposure of underwear, or old faithful, "Psssssst, come ya, gyal!"

We must find a way to carry our thinking beyond this macho, damaged, ineffectual attitude that only exacerbates and entrenches the cycle of violence tearing our beloved nation apart. Currently, we're still mired in colonially inspired methods of protection of body and property from the native rabble. So we believe that if a small fire breaks out in a wastebasket at home, the way to deal with it is to light a bigger fire in the living room and watch while they duke it out.

Private gun ownership hasn't benefited, isn't benefiting, can't ,and won't benefit Jamaica. Folks, it just ain't working. It hasn't worked for decades. In 1973, murders increased to an all-time high of 227. By 1976, it was 367; in 1977, four hundred and nine; and, three years later, 490. Last year, we recorded 1,616 murders (up 25 per cent), and despite two ZOSOs and a state of emergency, we're experiencing another 20 per cent increase in 2018.

 

Illegal gun

 

I suppose it's possible some individuals have been 'saved' by owning a gun. Obviously, the nation has not. For every story featuring a privately owned gun as saviour, I can tell 10 of privately owned guns that failed to save anyone mainly because when a hitman is approaching, he does his level best not to advertise. Furthermore, after he has dispatched you to the great beyond, your legal gun becomes his illegal gun. The saddest part of this illusory ownership of guns in private hands is that in Jamaica, many gunmen don't need to go to the hassle of killing you to convert a legal gun into an illegal gun as the FLA has been exposed as having distributed guns to criminals, and despite cosmetic changes, is likely to continue that sad trend.

Will we ever appreciate the urgency to do it differently? Congratulations to new PSOJ head honcho Howard Mitchell, who called for a national summit on crime. This is too important for one political party to hang on to as its fiefdom. Crime is a national problem. We must devise national solutions, sustainable across political administrations, to include disarmament of all, save police or military personnel, and commitment to a corruption-free, modernised and highly trained JCF.

Those ostriches who believe the threat is as it appears and can't get worse had better wake up and smell the future. Unless we devise and implement cerebral policies capable of exterminating crime's roots, we'll continue to breed and nurture Hydras who regenerate two heads for every one severed.

In the good old USA, where milk and honey flows down every street and opportunities for economic success can be picked like wildflower, the word 'Columbine' has become shorthand for what's now a regular horror, namely, mass school shootings. On April 20, 1999, two senior Columbine High School students whose names I've committed to the infamy of obscurity perpetrated a complex, highly planned attack involving a fire bomb to divert firefighters; propane tanks converted to bombs; 99 explosive devices; and car bombs, all of which they purchased legally under USA's laissez-faire weapons laws permitted by the constitution's Second Amendment, passed when muskets and colt .45s were modern weaponry. They murdered 12 students and one teacher while injuring 21 others. Three more were injured attempting to escape. After exchanging fire with police officers, the pair committed suicide.

America went into shock and awe. Tears were shed by the bucketful. Thoughts and prayers were sent like scattershot to victims' families. Nothing of consequence was done legislatively. No significant restrictions were placed on private gun ownership. 'Gun control' remained dirty words, according to the National Rifle Association's dictionary.

Columbine happened 19 years ago. It's no longer in America's top 10 worst mass shootings. El Numero Uno (apologies, Don) is October 2017's shooting in Las Vegas when a 64-year-old male fired over 1,100 rounds in 10 minutes from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing 58 and injuring 851 concertgoers at a music festival. He was later found dead in his room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

 

Dangerous handguns

 

In between, on April 16, 2007, a Virginia Tech senior shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks (another six were injured escaping from classroom windows), approximately two hours apart, before committing suicide. Thoughts and prayers were distributed generously. NOTHING was done to address the obscene gun laws permitting private ownership of dangerous handguns.

On December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary, a 20-year-old fatally shot 20 children (between six and seven years old) and six adult staff members. Before driving to the school, he shot and killed his mother. Again, tears flowed like rivers. More thoughts and prayers clogged the airwaves. No new gun laws clogged the legislature.

So, on February 14, 2018, a 19-year-old student arrived at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in an Uber and entered the school carrying a rifle in a soft black case. He began shooting two minutes later, moving from room to room and floor to floor, at one point returning to a classroom to open fire again. He then abandoned his rifle and bag and ran from the building, across tennis courts and playing fields, blending in with terrified students running for their lives.

The gunman visited a Walmart, purchased a drink at a Subway, and went to a McDonald's. He was arrested 80 minutes after the shooting. Tears blurred all TV screens. Thoughts and prayers dominated the news. President Twit prescribed tougher mental-health laws and armed teachers. THIS time, America's youth, in an inspiring demonstration of courage and intellect, rose to the occasion, forming a spontaneous mass movement for strict gun-control laws. I suspect the long-overdue change is now inevitable.

 

Gun-control debate

 

Meanwhile, across the pond, on March 13, 1996, a 43-year-old male drove five kilometres from his home in Stirling, Scotland, to Dunblane Primary School, carrying four legally owned handguns (two 9mm Browning HP pistols, two Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolvers) and 743 cartridges. He killed 16 children and one teacher before killing himself. In addition to thoughts and prayers, the UK offered a public gun-control debate culminating in the swiftly delivered Cullen Reports (1996).

In 1997, John Major's Conservative government amended the Firearms Act to ban all cartridge ammunition handguns, except for .22 calibre single-shot weapons. Following the 1997 election, Tony Blair's Labour government introduced a further amendment, banning .22 cartridge handguns as well. No games of political football were played with gun control. Since Dunblane, there've been ZERO mass school shootings in the UK.

Down under, in April 1996, a man killed 35 people with a semi-automatic weapon in Port Arthur, Tasmania, a popular tourist area. It was Australia's deadliest fatal mass shooting. Just weeks afterwards, Prime Minister John Howard was pellucid:

"I would dread the thought this country would go down the American path so far as the possession of firearms ... ," he said AT A GUN RALLY. Australia immediately banned private ownership of dangerous handguns. In the 18 years before the Port Arthur massacre, Australia experienced 18 mass shootings. Since the ban, NONE! Studies show total firearm deaths in Australia, declining before 1996, dropped more rapidly after the ban.

I heard the Senate leader of government business, in debating legislation for the removal of jury trials in human-trafficking cases, say that a jury trial wasn't a constitutional right. True. Neither is the right to bear (or, based on recent parliamentary disapproval, bare) arms.

What are we waiting for Jamaica? Think it can't happen here?

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to olumns@gleanerjm.com.