With concern that gun violence is at an all-time high, Government has announced plans to amend the Firearms Act in effort to tighten control and stem the inflow of guns.
That revelation came from Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Attorney General Deborah Payne, who did not give any details, only noting that the authorities would speed up the country’s compliance in the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) of 2014, which would in turn significantly curtail gun importation into the region.
“I am pleased to indicate that efforts are in train to amend and revise our Firearms Act to ensure Barbados’s compliance under the treaty. When implemented, this legislation would not only assist with the tightening of firearm control in Barbados, but it will also provide a legal framework to aid with production of reports,” said Payne, who was delivering opening remarks at the practical seminar on Fulfilling Arms Trade Treaty reporting obligations in the CARICOM region at the Radisson Aquatica Resort today.
By mandating that its signatories put national controls in place, the ATT broadens the network of national-level controls in a way that gives the international community a new tool to identify and interdict the illegal trade in arms. The increase in the number of countries that regulate this trade also means a drop in the volume of unregulated trade. Before the ATT, only just over 50 countries had control systems in place. Today, 92 countries, including Barbados, have come on board.
Payne lamented that, according to statistics provided by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, “68 per cent of homicides in the region were committed through the use firearms, compared to just 13 per cent in the European Union”.
“These statistics paint a grave picture of the plight of the region, especially when one considers that Caribbean states are not manufacturers of weapons. To further highlight the extent of this scourge, it is estimated that there are over 1.6 million illegal firearms in region.
“As you are aware, the movement of these weapons is linked to international drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime and will ultimately impact citizen security. It is this harsh reality that underscores Barbados’ strong support for this treaty. It is therefore envisaged that the robust implementation of the terms of the treaty will reduce the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in the region,” she added.
The Permanent Secretary stressed that it was only through accurate reporting that consistent application of the ATT could be achieved, and she urged the region’s signatories to play their part in this respect.
However, she asserted that consideration should be given to those who were lagging in their reporting protocols, since the process could be quite challenging.
“As representatives from a small island developing state, we can relate to the reporting burden which treaties demand. This concern has been raised by several member states….The adoption of comprehensive reporting templates and the making of public reporting mandatory have been key objectives of some member states. Barbados shares that view, but also asserts that consideration must be given to those states for whom reporting is a challenge,” Payne said while lauding the timeliness of the seminar.