No sooner than respected criminologist Kim Ramsay warned that gun violence in Barbados was an epidemic than the disturbing reality surfaced.
24 hours later residents in the inner-city community of New Orleans were cowering in fear as brazen masked gunmen opened fire indiscriminately in a weekend shooting spree, terrifying residents and a nation.
Mercifully, no one was killed, though a bullet grazed one woman, while homes and a car were left with bullet holes.
Residents shared the horror with Barbados TODAY.
“When I first heard the gunshots, I look around because I thought that it was something that was hollering. But then when I looked around I saw men in ski masks and then I decide I got to run now,” recounted Tony Rock.
A female who did not want to be identified said, “It is a community; you can’t make people frighten so in the community. It is the part you supposed to feel safe, not frightened. I never hear so much shots yet, I did really want to [defecate].”
These developments are nothing short of outrageous. We await some reassurance from the hardworking Royal Barbados Police Force that the senseless perpetrators will be hunted and brought to justice.
Any failure to send a strong message to the criminal element would be a grave mistake.
Gun violence has been mounting for several years. Surely, it is time to recognize the depth and the breadth of the problem.
Gun violence is killing all of us. Admittedly, this is mere hyperbole for some of us; that is, until someone we love or know falls victim to gun violence.
But the reality is that every shooting incident triggers both anger and fear among all of us and collectively as a nation we have got to get a handle on this scourge.
Ramsay, who is attached to the Government’s Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit suggested we first have to start by addressing the easy availability of firearms on the streets.
“Our borders are porous and we have gun smuggling going on in the island; we don’t know how the guns are coming.”
“It is so easy now to take up a gun and shoot somebody when there is a conflict as opposed to saying let me just walk away and calm down my head and come back,” she lamented.
We agree that the proliferation of illegal weapons in Barbados is a major concern. Especially baffling is the seemingly mysterious origin of all these illegal guns and how these arms end up in criminal hands.
It is worrying that while authorities have upgraded their strategies and strengthened laws, including tougher fines and jail terms to arrest the flow of illegal weapons, the deadly trade on our streets is growing.
Yet we can’t throw our hands in the air and give way to violent thuggery.
We support the provision of all necessary resources to our competent police force to use all available intelligence, especially in known hotspots, to weed out guns and criminals – whether they are big wigs or so-called boys on the block.
No parish, no community, no business, no Government department, no port, no profession must escape intense scrutiny if we are to arrest this problem.
We have to push the powers that be to install the latest technology at all ports to perform thorough checks of every item entering and leaving Barbados. Drastic perhaps, but necessary if we are going to fight back against this menace.
We would also do well to heed the wise words of Ramsay that Barbados has to examine why this culture of violence and aggression in some communities is becoming a norm.
Gun violence rarely occurs in isolation. Rapid urbanization, a thriving illegal drug trade, high unemployment among youth, and poverty help to fuel the problem; and that is just scraping the surface.
Gun violence is less likely to thrive in a society that focuses its social policies and programmes on the provision of a decent standard of living for all, where there is community building, where schools cater to more than an academic curriculum, where churches reach out to those who need their comfort, where businesses invest in communities and where every neighbour becomes their brother’s keeper.