Can Jamaica fix the crime problem by issuing more guns to its citizens?

BY R.D. MILLER

An elevated danger: The role of law enforcement has consistently remained a challenging task. It remains a struggle between perception and reality. An officer, as I have argued, takes on work that many could not fathom.

At the end of each shift, they only want to get back home to their family like everyone else.

Today, on some of these troubled islands prone to high crime, a vast number of officers now face a rising tide of guns as they struggle to differentiate who has legitimate right to carry a weapon, from criminals.

According to the reports, after the officer arrived on the scene, and ordered him to put down his weapon, he refused, and was fatally shot.

On Monday, July 17, 2017, a former local counselor candidate, an officer killed Warrenton Barham of the Jamaican Labour Party after he shot and murdered a 24-year-old woman. It appears that both criminals and authorized people to carry a gun are now emboldened to challenge police officers because they possess a weapon too.

Sadly, the gun issues have come down to that same theory. After this incident, the re-victimization echoed through social media as some blamed the victim for what seemed to be a love triangle that went bad.

Law enforcement swiftly came under attack, as many argued the officer did not have to discharge his weapon. Given his national profile, and low conviction rate in homicides in Jamaica, the question some would be asking, can justice be served for the victim and her family when powerful commits crime?

The missing victim: This is domestic violence, and that often gets overlooked.

No one outcome will please everyone.

They are all victims of the system that lawmakers and security leaders have created.

Although this incident does not validate, that Jamaica has everyone slinging a gun on every corner. It confirms a mentality that these armed civilians and criminals believe the local laws and policies do not apply to them..

Warrenton Barham’s political party is not a reason in this case; it is another form of domestic violence that preceded his premature death.

Violence against women has been an epidemic along these shores that continues to be washed out to the sea. The community should demand an answer.

Did the officer fear for his life, and this is where an unbiased and transparent investigation is needed. Equally important, maybe, before issuing these permits there should be more scrutiny.

Today, regardless if leaders and the community want to admit it, civilians are dying at an alarming rate where a sense of community security has eroded.

To obtain a gun, it instantly seems that all you need to show is one has a small business, are well-connected or a politician. Sadly, most of these individuals who are applying for these arms permits, frequently will become victims because these criminals will target them for their weapons.

According to the National Victimization Survey, over half a million people become a victim of crime committed by a gun alone. If places like Jamaica’s murder rate per capita according to the United Nations remain one of the highest in the world, and most of these deaths result from shooting, maybe granting more permits should be on the next election ballot.

The complexity of conflict: Typically a disagreement on the island was fought with stones, a loud debate, few choice words or a stick. Today, a gun is the choice one faces in any civil disagreement. And owning legal weapons does not give one the right to take lives in any disagreement. 

Where are these weapons coming from?

This mayhem also puts legal gun owners at grave risk as criminals target them for their weapons. Several studies have shown the chance of one becoming a victim is lower without a weapon in the home. It seems as is if globally people, in general, are becoming divided and violent. Others demonstrate no respect for the rule of law. 

It seems as is if globally people in general are becoming divided, and violent. Others have no respect for the rule of law.

Scholars have written about the root causes of this violence, such as poverty, and other socio-economic issues, and what leaders are not doing, and what can be done.

When conflicts arise today along these shores, and with limited resources to mediate, vigilante justice seems to be the only solution.

These troubled islands tend to adapt industrialized nations’ laws; however, some do not fit these shores because of the lack of resources to fully carry out their own unique system.

Citizens should demand better standards of living, schools, roads, education, medicine, human rights, victims support if anything should be adapted.

Better oversight/critical analysis: Government officials must begin revisiting the policy on the issue of these weapons. What are the eligibility standards; including a comprehensive mental health assessment for applicants?

Owning a small liquor bar that sells few beers and pieces of chicken on the street side, or a few trucks does not mean a gateway to be approved or simply have an image of a business person for a gun.

The same argument has appeared for some drivers that were issued driving permits not based on what they knew about the rules of the road, but whom you know.

This by passing of rules has contributed to catastrophes on the roadway by putting other legitimate drivers at more significant risk on some already perilous and poor roads. Jamaica must move beyond the photo-ops and a few days of talk on the radio while victims often get lost in these airwaves. 

There are still concerns on gun related violence, gang activities targeting visitors, robberies, kidnapping, child abuse, domestic violence, and murders, as in other places.

This 24-year-old woman is just one of many being killed by their husbands and boyfriends who have access to guns.

Police officers are now at greater risk.

And when there is a justifiable killing or not, it only emboldens criminals to believe that they are under attack. The argument must be debunked that arming everyone can reduce crime.

If people want to serve their community, and being armed to get policies implemented, I believe it is the wrong career path.

From an earlier report, Mr Barham lost his political bit bid to a former police officer who surrendered his gun, retired from the force and to become a counselor. According to many in the community, he accomplished more without his weapon. 

What next does one need to be now armed after clearing customs? An armed Caribbean only leads to additional violence and more erosion of public safety for law officers and the community in general.

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