EDITORIAL: Support for effort to rid streets of illegal guns
THE gun amnesty which the Attorney General, the Honourable Dale Marshall, announced last week is now in effect. It became effective yesterday and will last a week. It is aimed at ridding the island of illegal weapons in the wake of an increase in the crime rate, and in particular the murder rate, as several of the 20 homicides that occurred in the first three months of this year were committed with firearms.
Our view on this matter is that inspite of what people say and will continue to say about the amnesty, it is hoped that it would recover as many weapons as possible, thereby putting a dent on the number of the illegal guns on the streets. If it turns out that there is minimal response, then it should be extended for another two weeks.
There are some who believe that the policy will not yield the desired results since people are unlikely to come forward and part company with their weapons. There is also the fear that an individual handing over a gun suspected of being involved in a previous crime could be a target for investigations sometime in the future.
Illegal guns are used to commit other crimes like robberies, and gun battles fought by gangs for protection of turf in the illegal drug trade in Barbados. There is a feeling as well that someone who has a modern pistol/rifle in his possession will hardly want to give it up, the rationale being that it would have been acquired for a specific purpose in the first place. These and other reasons will present challenges to the amnesty.
However, there are many Barbadians who want it to succeed and hope that during the week all the illegal guns can be recovered, however much of a burden this may be.
They want tough action to deal with those who commit crime and violence in the country and those who get bail although they are charged with murder and other serious crimes.
The spike in the murder rate, which would have occasioned the amnesty, is something that Barbadians have not been accustomed to, and it is causing the public to query what has gone wrong in their country. That spike has left people scared and reluctant to venture out into places knowing that they could be caught in a crossfire where gun-toting criminals become involved in deadly exchanges of gun fire. Numerous stories have made the rounds about this demonstration of lawlessness.
We also recall the Attorney General telling a branch meeting of the ruling Barbados Labour Party about young men attending fetes and being on the dance floor showing off guns.
A high rate of crime is not good for Barbados and neither is it good for thousands of visitors, who come to our shores annually. It tends to cause visitors to stay away and at this time when the country’s economy is having real issues, Barbados needs every visitor it can get.
So far Barbados has been able to escape with a level one advisory by the United States, which told its people travelling to Barbados about specific areas they should avoid.
We do not want the situation to get out of control and the sooner this problem is dealt with the better.