Barbados will pay a steep economic price unless the authorities and community leaders act swiftly to eradicate the “cancer” of crime and violence linked to illegal guns on the streets, one church leader has warned.
In tackling the issue Tuesday in a feature address at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) July luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, the head of the local Roman Catholic Church Bishop Jason Gordon pleaded with leaders and people in influential positions to make the eradication of illegal firearms a priority.
“As leaders, the rising crime and violence should be on your front burner to influence all parties to do everything possible to deal with this,” the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bridgetown told the audience.
“With a dependence on tourism, our economic performance is tied directly to law and order,” he warned.
Bishop Jason, who worked with gangs in his native Trinidad, suggested that a lot of the gun violence the country was experiencing was the result of gang warfare.
And he warned that unless there was urgent intervention, the situation could get out of control.
“Gun violence is a cancer that escalates quickly. I have seen the effect of escalating gun violence when I was parish priest in Gonzales, Trinidad with five gangs in and around the community. I worked with the gangs, the community, the city and the police to restore order.”
The bishop complained that too many people charged with firearm offenses were out on the streets on bail, and recommended that gun-related cases should be fast-tracked and heard within four weeks.
“This requires leadership. It requires us moving beyond our apathy; it requires us working with Government and exploring options and encouraging a successful solution. A successful outcome will create hope,” he said.