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EDITORIAL - Call for a summit on illegal guns

Published:Saturday | January 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The police operation which resulted in the deaths of four men and the capture of 10 high-powered weapons earlier this week confirms that the roughly four-year war being waged on the guns-for-drugs trade with Haiti is far from over.

News reports on the trade suggest that the smugglers have transformed a major portion of the island's shoreline from Portland in the east, to Westmoreland in the west, into a lawless border facilitating the export of ganja and the smuggling of deadly weapons.

With more than 1,600 people murdered last year and entire communities being terrorised because of Jamaica's inability to prevent illegally smuggled weapons from reaching our shores and being used by criminals to murder, rob and create mayhem, we need urgent solutions to this problem.

Considering that Haiti was reported to have more than 170,000 small arms in a 2005 survey, the black market for weapons can be assured a reliable supply from that impoverished country. But Haiti does not make guns and these weapons have had to come from manufacturing countries such as the United States. We cannot accept that in this age of boundless technology, there are no new strategies which can be applied to nab the masterminds behind this trade. We also believe that the United States government could do much more to share information with the Jamaican authorities.

Blood spilling

The Obama administration has announced initiatives to fight trafficking in arms and drugs between the US and Mexico. With more than 7,000 murdered last year, the US is apparently concerned about blood spilling on to its soil. The US sees the problems in Mexico as a big safety issue and is committed to placing resources at the government's disposal to inspect cargo and train its military.

Drugs, guns and cash are linked in a complex, and mostly deadly relationship. The drug trade is a violent business and a gun is the most potent accessory a criminal possesses. The huge profits made from the drug trade finance firearms' purchases. But this money does more, it buys influence and it corrupts the police and other public officials. Both drugs and guns destroy lives.

The Government must rethink the strategies for dealing with the out-of-control smuggling of arms into the country. New tough legislation should target sellers, buyers, traffickers and those who aid and abet them. There needs to be harsher penalties with new minimum sentences and no chance of parole if we are to send a strong message to these merchants of death.

At the same time, we don't think the Jamaican Government will achieve much on its own. However, if Jamaica and her CARICOM partners should invite gun manufacturing countries such as the United States, China and Russia to a summit on small arms, it would do much to blow wide open the shady world of illegal arms trafficking and could result in some kind of agreement to cooperate in this fight. The problems triggered by the illegal gun trade can only be solved if those involved are made to bear responsibility for their role in the crisis of violence.

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: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.