Thu | Aug 6, 2020

EDITORIAL - Murderous guns from America

Published:Sunday | November 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Since Americans have, up to now, been impervious to the sensible arguments of countries like Jamaica, maybe they will be persuaded by what ought to be worrying data from within their own country.

Since the start of 2000, up to the end of September this year, 511 police officers were shot dead in the United States (US). This past week, The Washington Post, a respected newspaper based in the US capital, reported on the findings of its investigation into the source of the guns used in these murders.

The Post was able to trace the weapons in 341, or approximately 67 per cent, of the cases. Of these cases, nearly a third of the guns used to kill the officers were legal purchases - the leading source for obtaining weapons. These do not include legally owned guns (46) that may have been taken from friends and relatives by the shooters.

Moreover, more than 200 of the murderers had felony convictions, which prohibited them from owning firearms. But in America's lax gun-control environment, many of these felons found no difficulty in acquiring them - including purchasing them.

There is another statistic worth noting. During the review period, more than 95,000 Americans were murdered with guns, which are the greatest tools for homicides in that country.

It is the norm for Americans to argue that guns by themselves do not kill, and for policymakers to back away from rational and reasonable gun-control measures in the face of claims by pro-gun lobbyists that these represent an assault on the country's constitution that ostensibly gives individuals the right to bear arms.

Fuelling gang feuds

In that context, there is little purchase for positions articulated by Jamaica that guns, mostly smuggled from the US, help to fuel the gang feuds and other forms of criminality that cost the country over 1,000 homicides annually. Or, it makes little impact that more than three-quarters of the guns seized in Mexico since 2006 were traced to the USA. Or, that many of the estimated 7,000 gun stores on the US-Mexican border sprang up since the outbreak of the Mexican drug war in 2006, and that they provide easy access to most of the weapons that claimed the bulk of the 28,000 lives lost in the Mexican cocaine conflict.

Of course, American administrations usually say the right things when challenged about the effect of their effete gun laws on other countries. They promise sterner cooperation and to be part of fashioning a robust convention on the trade in small arms.

Effective action, however, is stymied by domestic political considerations. No US administration has been able, or has had the will, to frame and articulate with confidence and force a coherent and internationalist argument in favour of gun control.

That US guns find their way through porous outgoing borders may not mean too much to Americans when the victims of gun violence are Jamaicans or Mexicans.

Maybe if they understood that 'America's finest', the cops of California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and so on, are among the victims, they might begin to comprehend the folly of the country's gun policy. This might be one way for those who care to begin to make the case.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.