EDITORIAL: Serious rules for gun crime
WE DON’T KNOW if there is any truly scientific way for law enforcement authorities, or anyone else in the community, to determine how many illegal guns there are in the hands of Barbadians, but it is clear from anecdotal evidence that we ought to be concerned, whatever the number.
Earlier this week Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith revealed that last year alone the police confiscated 65 illegal guns, while reiterating his earlier stance that he believes they are entering the island through legitimate ports of entry.
Sixty-five guns being confiscated, we believe, can only represent the tip of the iceberg because it can’t be unreasonable to conclude that those intercepted are only a fraction of the number that actually make it into the hands of criminals. And that must be a source of worry for every law-abiding citizens.
What also must be made clear is that we do not believe when we use the word criminal to describe those who handle these weapons anyone should rush to assume we are talking exclusively about the proverbial “boy on the block”. Yes, the evidence from the courts is overwhelming that when guns fall into the hands of these youngsters they apparently have no reservations about using them.
However, as has been stated by others, we do not believe the “boys on the block” are involved in importation in any significant way. Certainly we do not believe they have access to the various ports of entry, public or private. So if the guns are entering the island via the channels identified for the police chief, it can only mean that people we assume to be decent, law-abiding citizens are involved in the exercise because they are the ones with access to the ports.
And this, we believe, is where there ought to be a greater focus by law enforcement agencies and those responsible for border protection, even if it means that they have to resist the almost natural tendency to believe that everyone who wears their uniform comes to the job with clean hands.
This matter is sufficiently serious, and possesses the potential to so disrupt all we have worked so hard to achieve as a society that our Government has to be prepared to invest in the kinds of technology that would allow for the deployment of more successful interdiction strategies. We have to reach the point very quickly where everything leaving the port is subjected to electronic scanning. Human hands and eyes alone are no longer enough!
Additionally, we have to be prepared to introduce rules, unpleasant though they may be for some, for the protection of the larger society. If Barbadians in certain sensitive services want to continue to enjoy the trust and support of the population, they have to demonstrate they are above reproach. If you work in the police, military, customs or immigration services then we believe you should be subjected to random, periodic polygraph testing – while everyone entering as recruits should face mandatory testing.
Where private agencies perform security duties in any of these facilities, then any staff they deploy to such sensitive installations should also have to face polygraph testing.
We believe that authorities can work with the unions representing these workers to ensure that the questions ask never stray outside what’s relevant to the duties perform, but it can’t be out of bounds to ask a customs officer, for example, if he has ever knowingly allowed illegal guns or drugs to pass his station while he was on duty.
Every citizen has a duty to join this fight and to do everything reasonably possible to assist law enforcement agencies, but John Public will never willingly get involved if he believes the persons receiving or handling any information he may share is in anyway engaged in the facilitation of illegal activity.
We need to act now or we will find ourselves forced to employ far more unpalatable measures.