EDITORIAL: We’re all in the gun fight
WITHIN RECENT WEEKS, while responding to questions relating to the high incidence of gun-related crimes in their respective countries, the leaders of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica stressed that none of these weapons is manufactured in their homelands and a key to ending the cycle is blocking their importation.
The truth is, while the absolute numbers may not be as high as in these two countries, across the region every prime minister can say the same thing – if we do not find ways to stem the flow of illegal guns into our jurisdictions we will continue to lose our sons and daughters in senseless killings that are becoming all too commonplace.
Just this week authorities here arrested and charged a young woman after she allegedly attempted to clear a shipping barrel at the Bridgetown Port that was found to contain five guns.
We are not aware of the details of the circumstances that led to her being charged and we respect the principle enshrined in our justice system, which states that an individual is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
What’s clearly not in dispute, though, is that five disassembled guns were discovered by customs officers during their routine search – and implicit in this may be a vital clue to one avenue being utilised by unscrupulous people who have no regard for the law or the lives that their illegal cargo put at risk.
We are just days away from Christmas, and at the peak of the season when the island’s port is flooded with barrels, and the volume of personal items shipped through private couriers, the parcel unit of the Barbados Postal Service and shipping agencies that operate through the Grantley Adams International Airport.
One only needs to look at the barrel business to understand the scope of the security challenge the country could face from people with criminal intentions. In the lead-up to last Christmas, authorities at the Bridgetown Port cleared more than 25 000 barrels – at the rate of more than 320 per day. There is no evidence to suggest the same is not currently the case.
Even with the best will in the world, ensuring these barrels are not a conduit for contraband will be fraught with weaknesses unless border protection workers are furnished with an adequate supply of properly functioning electronic scanning equipment.
We have no reason to doubt that the vast majority of people who travel overseas, shop and ship barrels back home in order to save money, or overseas-based relatives who use them as a means to ease the burden on loved ones here are decent law-abiding individuals who would not even countenance such illegal activity.
But as this week’s episode demonstrated, it only takes one barrel to create possible havoc on the streets of Barbados. One gun in the hands of a criminal is a potential death sentence to a not insignificant number of innocent people.
The importance of customs officers in the fight against crime therefore cannot be overemphasised, and it is the duty of every citizen to offer them and the police their unqualified support.
We would be quite naive to believe that customs officers spot every item of contraband that enters one of our ports, and it is therefore essential that citizens do their part by informing police when they know of individuals who use these avenues to get their guns and drugs into the country.
Only a recognition that this is not a fight reserved for law enforcement officials, and that in any event citizens are the eyes and ears of those we employ to protect us, will bring the level of success in detection and deterrence we desire.