How to stem the gun violence tide in Barbados
The weekend report that 19 firearms and 262 rounds of ammunition were seized by the Police Antigun and Gangs Unit in the Bridgetown and Southern Divisions over the last six months is as welcome as it is sobering.
Undoubtedly the discoveries are the merest tip of the iceberg. There are more guns out there than our imagination can withstand.
Still, one less weapon of destruction off the street, far less a score of them, is a huge help and the police must be supported in their efforts to rid our neighbourhoods of illegal firearms.
The reality is that for such a small country there are way too many illegal guns. The authorities must step up their effort to interrupt the flow of guns into the country.
We witness the unspeakably high levels of slaughter in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The senseless bloodshed here over the last four years has been intolerable.
The Barbados Police Service has seized high-powered weapons including an AK-47 automatic assault rifle with a cylindrical magazine, an AR-15 rifle, AK-17 and Draco – brand names of mayhem and bloodletting.
The discoveries are all the more concerning when one considers that almost all murders here involve illegal guns.
Just how these guns are making their way into the hands of criminals and what and who are the sources of such heavy artillery are questions in demand of fast, definitive answers.
Said Commissioner Boyce: “These weapons were seized by way of protracted intelligence led investigations, proactive police operations and execution of Search Warrants. Fourteen persons have been formally charged with firearm related offences resulting from those firearms and ammunition.”
The young men often hauled before the law courts for illegal weapons, shootings and murders are but minions in a much bigger underworld of greed, avarice and lust for power in which impoverished pawns are manipulated by wealthier masterminds.
We know that much of the gun violence and crime in Barbados is tied to the illegal drugs trade. But it appears to us that, notwithstanding last weekend’s haul, the Police Service is facing an uphill battle against the drug scourge.
Given the ever-increasing numbers of people using and promoting drug use, the police will have to adapt their crime-fighting strategies.
Gun violence has a crippling impact wherever it is allowed to take root. Countless families are left to live in fear, many others mourn the death of a loved one at the hands of a gunman. Already stretched health services are forced to use critical resources to treat preventable injuries from senseless shootings.
Tough penalties for possessing illegal guns won’t be enough if our courts fail to expeditiously and appropriately deal with gun offenders.
Government is well aware of this problem and while improvements have been made at our ports of entry, there can be no relaxing of efforts to keep guns out. Police need the training and resources to adequately take on this fight.
Equally, if law-abiding citizens are determined to safeguard their lives and liberty, families and communities too must take a stand. Covert crime cannot be allowed to pass as “none of my business” only to end in serious injury or a life lost.
#BTEditorial – Taking a better shot at gun violence Barbados Today