With 3,000 people slain or maimed by gun violence over the last seven years, a senior law enforcement has called on the Government to look beyond conventional solutions if it is curb this grim statistic.
Fixes such as gun amnesty and stiffer penalties have failed to curb the problem of gun violence, said Inspector Graham Husbands, as he addressed Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson, during this morning’s release of the preliminary findings of a firearms study conducted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit at the Savannah Hotel.
The police officer explained that whenever gun amnesties were implemented in the past, some people used the opportunity to offload old, disused firearms.
“Most of these firearms brought in during a gun amnesties are of no use. On one such occasion 13 or 14 firearms were turned in and only one was of any use. The fact remains when we look at the people who hand in these firearms, they are who we classify as law abiding citizens. The average criminal on the street will not surrender his firearm. I am not saying that we shouldn’t look at it [gun amnesty] but I am just saying that this is what really happens.” said Husbands.
The police inspector also expressed concern that although Government has raised the maximum penalty for firearm possession to 25 years in prison or a fine of $150,000, or both, such punitive levels were seldom ever applied to people found guilty of the offence, thus dulling the would-be deterrent effect of the legislation.
The law officer’s argument was made at the same forum where the study which accounted for reported and recorded gun-related crimes between 2010 and 2017, revealed that firearm-enabled crimes spiked by 17 per cent in 2017. Robbery, aggravated assault and endangering lives are the top three offences in which a firearm is used. The report pointed out that there 2908 victims of reported gun crimes for the period of which 2157 were males, 645 females while the gender of a further 106 persons were not attainable due to missing or aggregated data. In addition, 34 police officers were victims of firearm incidents during the period studied. The victims’ ages ranged between one year and 88 years old.
In acknowledging the senior officer’s concern, Hinkson contended that gun crime must be addressed by plugging the point of entry for guns entering the island. The Minister of Home Affairs noted that this was a long-running problem and one where the answers may not come over night.
“My view is that we have to tackle the problem at the source. We must find out how these guns are getting in here in first place. This is something that has troubled us for years. The people on the street say they know who are bringing in the guns, yet you seldom hear of these persons being arrested. This is something that concerns this administration. This is one of maybe three things that causes our Prime Minister [Mottley] some sleepless nights,” said Hinkson, who argued that Government’s plans to root out corruption was key to fighting gun violence at the source.