Getting the Guns - priority for 2016
There is a difference between being paid attention and getting 'Noticed'. Last Monday, former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) politician Dr Raymoth Notice was attacked at his home and robbed of his firearm in an attempt on his life. Thankfully, he survived the incident, and because of the swift action and intelligence of the police, one suspect has been apprehended. Hopefully, it is the real shooter and not someone who was coughed up in order to sway public opinion.
Notice is statistically only one of the outliers in regard to the data on gun violence in this country. Each year, there are around 2,000 reported shootings, including murders, and the numbers could very well be higher, because unless the victim is 'innocent' or seriously injured and treated by an ethical doctor, he will hide his injuries and self-medicate.
For analytical purposes, one ought not to take shootings and gun murders as separate categories. After all, I know of persons who have received as many as eight gunshots and look like a strainer given the number of holes. Yet, these individuals are as hale and hearty as two oxen - and that's no bull!
On the other hand, people have bled to death from a single low-calibre round. What makes the difference is the accuracy of the assailant or the luck of the victim. Perhaps, the gunmen's hands got 'straighter' in 2015.
Around 70 per cent of all murdered gunshot victims are young men between the ages of 16 and 28 and the profile of the killers is very similar. What makes the goodly doctor stick out is because he is not 'one of those boys'. Nonetheless, other categories of persons who are neither gang members nor youth include firearm holders and persons who are believed to have money or wealth. Guns are at a premium for these young 'shattaz' - including those who callously murdered two police in St Thomas last Tuesday night - and they will do anything to get or keep them. If they want your gun, it doesn't matter if you are green, orange or blue.
What we are still failing to acknowledge is that inside and outside of the vulnerable groups of would-be gunmen, we created a gun culture, which even pervades our normal parlance. Thus, we find comfort in young men referring to themselves as 'chargie' (someone who was a cell companion). Similarly, something of high quality 'a shot', and a congratulatory onomatopoeic greeting is, "brap brap!" Indeed, a positive salutation is 'hothead'.
I hate guns because they have destroyed the lives of more than 15,000 families since the new millennium started, and some carry injuries for life. The homicide records do not reveal the true picture of the mayhem that has been caused by this instrument of death. A gun is not like a knife, cutlass or ice pick; it has no other use but to kill and maim. However, unlike any of those other tools, if you leave it by itself for a century, it will not pose any danger. On the other hand, simply touching a knife can hurt you.
We need to get the guns and the hands that bag, hide and use them. Nevertheless, the police need high levels of cooperation and a reduction of the anti-informer ethos. However, for their part, it is indispensable that when information is passed on, or witnesses come forward, the State protect the loyal patriots and not leave them to the vagaries of the society or even criminal elements within the constabulary.
GUN MURDERS/SHOOTINGS STATISTICS
There is no space for politics, although Notice could become a poster boy for the necessary cooperation between political parties and civil society to reduce the gun-crime epidemic. Bet you did not know that combining gun murders and shootings, as we should, this could be a less violent year than 2014?
Up to Monday, December 19, 2015, there were 3,346 violent crimes, including 1,035 shootings. This compares to 3,420 in 2014, for the same period. Last year this time, we had 1,072 shooting reports. Indeed, at this point in 2014, some 2,209 robberies had been committed. Comparably 1,842 have been recorded up to last week. Given that robbery usually involves the use of an offensive weapon, preferably a gun, this is a significant reduction in gun crimes.
By the way, despite the allegations of us being an increasingly dishonest society, we are less thieving this year than in 2014. Some 5,084 acts of theft were scribed in 2014, while we are at 3,904.
It is the work of the social workers, sociologists, church and civil and political leaders to rewrite the gun culture and replace it with positive alternatives. Too many churchmen want to preach in church and ignore the youth on the streets until they are handing out tracts for a crusade or 'field service'.
Similarly, our successful black men only want to speak at service clubs or make donations to their charities but are unwilling to visit the 'nameless' deep rural or inner-city schools. However, when the alumni of name-brand schools call, they run faster than a rumour of a political activist carrying a gun.
Speaking of which, the police have in custody someone who, in 2009, was allegedly grabbed from their clutches by a JLP politician. In his possession was a high-powered weapon, which even police personnel cannot carry unless in uniform and part of an active squad.
On September 17, 2015 the police launched the Get the Guns campaign, and so far, they have recovered 166 firearms and 2,175 rounds of ammunition. Needless to say, many of the guns, like their users, are featured in multiple crimes. Therefore, the recovery of a single gun or a small cache of bullets might have saved dozens of lives. Of course, more finds are needed, but all hands must be on deck in 2016.
I am not playing the game of saying that the next victim could be you. However, I am saying to the politicians who still consort with criminals: "Crocodiles cannot be tamed" and their offspring will bite the hands that fed their parents.
- Dr Orville Taylor, senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host, is the author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.