CARICOM countries want US to help in gun fight as region helps in war on drugs
By Jenique Belgrave
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states must lobby the United States to assist them in clamping down on illegal guns.
Calling on his regional counterparts to lend their voices to this cause, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said CARICOM countries can no longer afford to pour limited resources into helping the US fight illegal drug trafficking without reciprocal assistance in its own battle against the proliferation of firearms.
“My position is that we must, as a collective group, agree that greater resources must be placed into our police forces, into our ability to gather intelligence and interdict and prosecute, but we must also consolidate our efforts to lobby particularly the United States to assist us,” he said, while addressing Monday’s morning session of the Regional Symposium on Crime and Violence as a Public Health Issue at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad and Tobago.
“As we have assisted them in the war on drugs, they must assist us in the war on guns. It is the greatest unfairness that we have diverted resources from other areas in which we could have spent it to fund and support a war on drugs. By the way, the two things are related but there seems to be no real interest in stopping the other part of the trade which is the guns.”
Holness made the comments as several CARICOM states take the region’s fight against gun violence directly to US arms manufacturers with a US$10 billion lawsuit.
Among those nations is The Bahamas whose Prime Minister Philip Davis expressed serious concerns about the proliferation of guns flowing into his country from the US.
Pointing to a case in which one individual bought 46 guns in the US and nine of them were used to commit crimes in The Bahamas, he said that even though this was reported to American authorities that person was not arrested.
“I’ve been telling the United States that I am not going to get involved in their definition of their right to bear arms but it cannot mean for us in the region that right to bear arms also gives the right to traffic in those arms,” said Davis who is also CARICOM chairman.
He noted that every gun used to commit a crime in the Caribbean is smuggled and many of them originate in the US.
“In the Bahamas, 98.6 per cent of all recovered illegal firearms can be traced directly to the United States. In Haiti, 87.7 per cent of all recovered firearms can be traced likewise. In Jamaica, it amounts to 67 per cent and here in Trinidad, 52 per cent.
“We have asked the US government and US-based gun manufacturers to cooperate with CARICOM member states when it comes to identifying weapons purchased in the US as a part of a wider effort to hold weapons dealers and manufacturers and traffickers accountable for the many lives lost to gun violence each year. We must call on our neighbours to the north to better police the trafficking of guns from the US to the Caribbean,” he said.
“Last month, The Bahamas, along with Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Mexico, working along with the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Human Security, jointly filed a brief in the United States Court of Appeal in support of US$10 billion lawsuit to hold US gun manufacturers liable for the destruction [caused by] American-made guns, in our country. It was an action initiated by the Mexican government. We intend to challenge the laws that previously protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits. We’re sending a clear message to the world that we are very serious about fighting gun violence in all forms,” Davis added.
During the session, the Commissioners of Police for Jamaica, The Bahamas, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago pointed out that gun-related violence is taking up the majority of their resources.
They said gun traffickers were becoming more inventive, often smuggling arms through ports in everyday items such as boxes of cornflakes and juices and electrical equipment.
The police chiefs noted that with more high-powered rifles making their way onto the streets, cutting off the supply of these weapons is critical.