Sun | Oct 17, 2021

Gordon Robinson | Assault with a deadly weapon

Published:Tuesday | September 28, 2021 | 12:06 AM
Guns are so central to Jamaica’s murder rate that the authorities keep a list of Jamaica’s 30 deadliest guns based on ballistic matches.
Guns are so central to Jamaica’s murder rate that the authorities keep a list of Jamaica’s 30 deadliest guns based on ballistic matches.

Do Jamaican governments want to address violent crime?

The Rio de Janeiro-headquartered Igarapé Institute is a non-profit, independent think-and-do tank focused on public, climate and digital security’s consequences for democracy. It operates in 20-plus countries and was awarded best Human Rights NGO (2018) and best think tank on social policy by Prospect Magazine (2019). According to its Homicide Monitor, 32 per cent of homicides worldwide are committed with firearms. In Jamaica, it’s over 80 per cent.

Most of those guns come from USA with its constitutional freedom to bear arms and farcical gun-control laws. In August 2019, a New York Times (NYT) investigative report told the story of a USA-manufactured nine-millimetre Browning handgun, nicknamed ‘Briana’ by Jamaican police.

“She came to Jamaica from USA [in 2015], sneaking in illegally, stowed away to avoid detection. Within a few years, she became one of [Jamaica’s] most-wanted assassins.

She preyed on Clarendon carrying out nine confirmed kills, including a double homicide outside a bar, killing a father at a wake, and murder of a single mother of three ... . She shot and nearly killed a 14-year-old girl getting ready for church …”

Purchased in 1991 by a North Carolina farmer, Briana vanished from public record for nearly 24 years until suddenly wreaking havoc in Jamaica. Finally, after a firefight with police, it was recovered in 2018. Authorities traced the serial number back to Briana’s original owner. But that didn’t explain how she came to Jamaica decades later.

In USA, gun rights are defended by the nonsensical assertion “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Not so here, where police, politicians and even gangs agree too many guns, typically from USA, makes Jamaica so deadly.

Guns are so central to Jamaica’s murder rate that Authorities keep a list of Jamaica’s 30 deadliest guns based on ballistic matches. But Briana was so poorly documented under American law that, according to the NYT, America’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) only had a piece of paper with the name and details of the original buyer.

Jamaica’s gun laws are stricter, but Firearms Licensing Authority’s (FLA) operations are as transparent as a tar pit. The NYT reported in 2018 that Jamaica has about 45,000 “legal” firearms but is “awash” with illegal guns. Jamaican authorities KNOW that over 200 guns are smuggled in monthly. Of about 1,500 seized weapons checked by the ATF at Jamaica’s request (2016-2018), 71 per cent came from USA.

STEM INFLOW OF ILLEGAL GUNS

Antony Anderson recently bemoaned light sentences for convicted gun offenders. But, Commish, before cussing judges, your organisation must stem inflow of illegal guns, then investigate/charge/convict gun offenders. AFTER you’ve done YOUR job, maybe we’ll listen to you whine about sentencing.

Jamaica will never solve murders-by-gun/guns-for-drugs by sending soldiers as pretend police to arbitrarily detain youth. Instead:

• get rid of corrupt cops working for gangs and facilitating gun imports;

• disarm citizens; disband FLA; ensure anybody found with a gun is either a police or criminal;

• tell USA to either stop export of guns to Jamaica or we stop pandering to its drug and money-laundering panic attacks.

We attacked the pandemic head-on by closing borders, locking down economies and forcing citizens to mask up/physical distance. Recently, refusal to wear masks attracted hefty fines. In a COVID pandemic, mask/vaccine mandates are essential to save lives. In a murder pandemic, gun control is as essential. Is a man with a gun or without a mask deadlier? Both could lead to assault with a deadly weapon and death, but only one requires evil intent.

The circular argument against vaccine mandates based on vaccinated persons’ limited risk of contagion is tiresome. The national vision to end COVID is ‘herd immunity’ by 75 per cent vaccinations. Infected vaccinated persons live. Too many infected, unvaccinated persons die, taking with them others whose treatment they prevent by overcrowding hospitals. It’s that simple. If a live, safe population is your national objective, vaccine/mask mandates and gun control is your best route.

Some 1,019 Jamaicans were murdered in 2021, while 1,519 were conformed killed by COVID. Why wouldn’t simple illegal possession of a gun and refusal to mask up attract similarly harsh penalties? Why not mandate vaccination?

Peace and Love!

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