Tue | Apr 23, 2019

Orville Taylor | greater danger behind the gun find

Published:Sunday | March 3, 2019 | 12:23 AM

It made the rounds. A shipment of firearms, including assault rifles, shipped from the United States, picked up at the Jamaican ports. All over social media, it has been confirmed.

Up to the time this article was being penned, no warm body has been arrested and as far as I know, the powers that be have not moved and reassigned the bright female police officer who broke the news.

Thus, I am taking the story at face value.

My celebrations won’t begin, however, until there have been arrests and not just in Jamaica. Unless there is something that escapes the eye, my confidence is still in the investigative capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Despite the strong tactical support which it can get from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), it is the police who ultimately have to not just find the criminals, but arrest and charge them while producing evidence of the quality which will lead to convictions. As far as I know, the skill set needed for that detailed detective work is not taught at Newcastle.

You see, unlike some of my colleagues in media and the academy who use words such as ‘crime spiralling out of control’ and other inflammatory panic-driven expressions, my money is still on the House of Babylon, with or without the military.

I share the view of security minister Dr Horace Chang, that the security forces do have the capacity to handle the wave of criminal violence, although I will hasten to also affirm that one should not jump to any conclusion about the recent increase in homicides and the lifting of the state of emergency.

Finding the guns is a large part of any homicide reduction strategy, and the police, with the necessary support and resources, as well as the cooperation of the citizens, can accomplish this.

However, crime and violence reduction has to take a systemic approach and a big part of the puzzle is the stemming of the flow of guns.

My commendations go out to all arms of law enforcement, which include Jamaica Customs as well as the security forces, because even one automatic weapon in the hands of a single criminal-minded individual can wreak havoc on a community.

Yet, the glaring truth is that the supply side has to be managed and it is not being controlled, to the detriment of countries like ours.

Apart from the crudely made ‘one pop’ home-made shotgun, which I have not seen in a very long time, Jamaicans do not make firearms. I am willing to bet that our security protocols at our ports would prevent any shipment of firearms and ammunition from going out from this country into the United States.

After all, if one looks at the reports of the constabulary regarding the seizure of foreign-bound narcotics leaving this country, one would be more afraid than encouraged to attempt to send drugs outside of Jamaica via the ports, if at all.

With the little bit of economic and technical resources that we have at our disposal, it is amazing how well we work. Yet, the ease with which Americans or American residents have access to not just hand guns but high-power weapons, such as M16s and AR15s, makes the task of keeping guns out almost impossible.

SEEMED TO BE ONE-SIDED

For the past decade or so, I have lamented application of the bilateral agreements with our neighbours up north, because the extradition of citizens has always seemed to be one-sided.

Now, let me make it clear, l totally support the idea of the scammer being sent to Uncle Sam’s slammer and be given sentences so long that we could call them paragraphs or chapters.

Similarly, inasmuch as the average Jamaican is comfortable with the ‘ishens’ and does not really consider marijuana to be a hard drug (which it is not), I also accept that if anyone in this country is foolhardy enough to attempt to export the weed to the US, then he is welcome to hold a reservation in the American prison system.

Worse, in an era when the American marijuana is more potent and of more diverse quality than the Jamaican, I can’t imagine why anyone would be even trying that.

My concern, nonetheless, is that for all the guns and ammunition which have been intercepted, and given the intelligence that American residents, if not citizens, are the exporters, when will we finally get one of them here to rub shoulders with our bleached-face inmates at the ‘GP’?

Apart from the fact that black youth are over-represented in the data on American gun homicides, we have seen that in 107 mass shootings between 1982 and 2018, some 50 rifles have been used in 42 mass shootings. Of course, the American homicide rate compared to Jamaican is 1/10, but American guns are the main weapons used here.

Scarier is that a 2015 report by Amnesty International had revealed that 20 per cent of the spent shells found to have been used by ISIS in Syria were American-made.

But that is the less pressing concern.

American weapons also fuel the violence in the Americas, from Mexico down to the tip of South America. Of course, the Caribbean is, for all practical purposes, part of the American coastline.

Indeed, California is 2,422 miles from Miami, while we are just under 580 miles. The Caribbean is closer to the US than parts of the US. Unlike Mexico, where the US president might succeed or fail in putting up a border wall, the Caribbean frontier is porous and full of disaffected youth.

Moreover, Americans, with warnings or otherwise, are fond of travelling to the 12-month-a-year summers in the Caribbean, both for business and pleasure.

Simply put, tighter restrictions on guns in the US and vigilant tracking, arrest and prosecution of American-based gun suppliers protect us all.

A safe Caribbean is a safer United States.

Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.