Orville Taylor | Reduce the gun inflow
Patience, the police say as we wait to hear of the arrests regarding the 19 guns, including six high-powered rifles and more than 400 rounds of ammunition picked up by local law enforcement at the port in Montego Bay, St James, last week.
We know that there is a female whose name appears on the address in Jamaica, but hopefully, this time, the sender and intended recipient will be punished and not the messenger. True, we have to do our part here, and there is something very sinister and consistent. In 2017, a cache of 119 weapons and 200-plus rounds was found by American border agents at the Miami International Airport. Like this current stash, the two barrels in which the contraband was shipped were addressed to a woman in that part of the island. As with the current, the barrels had a mailing address of Coral Springs, Florida.
The ‘fairer sex’ is a critical link in the process of tightening the screws on our criminals. In January 2016, a young Trelawny woman was intercepted in St James and a gun and ammunition seized. June 2018 saw another attending a public event, with a gun hidden in her handbag, and just last year March, a loaded Kalashnikov (AK47) rifle with 15 rounds of ammunition, along with another 33 bullets, was taken from another woman. Our Jamaican cops are doing their part, but they need international help.
For at least a decade, my consistent cry has been for tracing and arrests for the culprits who send guns and ammunition anywhere outside of their domiciled country. The illegal international arms trade is a multibillion scourge of the world, and criminals walk around with poster-level smiles, fat, legal bank accounts, and squeaky clean assets. Take a reality check and read the UN’s report. https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Firearms/2020_REPORT_G....
Globally, guns kill more than 250,000 each year, with the majority being homicides. Interestingly, six countries – Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela along with the USA – account for more than half of this total. In 2018, of 38,390 American deaths by firearms, 24,432 were suicides.
Here, we lose more than 1,000 young men between the ages of 17 and 24 each year. This is exactly the same age cohort where 70 per cent of them are not in post-secondary education. I know that I’ve cited this ad nauseam, but it cannot be overemphasised that one of the best predictive variables against a young man becoming a killer or being killed is post-secondary education; even one year of college.
However, and here, I can save brain capacity for later, it is impossible to shoot someone without a gun. And no, shooting off one’s mouth is not the same. So follow me here. Despite the occasional ‘one pop’ crudely manufactured homemade gun being used by the sporadic shooter, the majority of firearms in the hands of criminals are not of Jamaican origin. In fact, if one wants to stretch the behavioural science to its logical application, one will even see a link between non-indigenous influences and the violence. But let us stick to our guns, or rather, theirs.
Of all the instruments of death, the gun is the one readily available source that has no other use. A knife is a tool. A machete, even when used to chop bushes, is not a figurative reference to the former Republican presidents. Thus, given that the gun is the main weapon of youth mass destruction, gun control is a sine qua non.
TIGHTEN THE REINS
For all the porosity of our borders, our Customs and immigration agencies, along with the coast guard and marine police, have to be commended regarding their regular seizure of contraband. However, in the same way that we have clamped down on drugs here, including the ‘ishens’, America has to tighten its rein on legally bought guns. I would like someone to explain to me why a civilian needs military grade body armour, armour-piercing rounds, or even an AR15/M16 assault rifle? Many legally purchased guns are illegally shipped and make it into the hands of foreign criminals and international terrorists.
A recent study indicated that 60 per cent of weapons on sale on the ‘dark web’ are from the USA.
Jamaica has no constitutional provision where citizens have the right to bear arms. Deeply enshrined in the American supreme statute is the Second Amendment, ‘The Right to Keep and Bear Arms’. But there is no such thing as an unrestricted freedom or right. A personal right cannot be exercised to the detriment of the rights or freedoms and certainly not against the State. On this side of the pond, carrying any kind of gun is a privilege, and we understand this.
If the events of last week do not frighten the American lawmakers, nothing will. However, unless President-elect Joe Biden and his Republican colleagues act quickly, gun control will come literally knocking on their doors.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.