Editorial | Getting the guns
An explicit call for international collaboration to halt the flow of guns to the region by Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the recent 77th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, placed the spotlight on trafficking and its linkages to organised crime, as well as its effect on domestic security and regional stability.
Mr Holness told the body of 193 member states that the availability of guns is driving an ever-increasing homicide rate in this country. The numbers tell the alarming story, insofar as that more than 1,000 people have already been murdered this year. People are not even shocked at these numbers anymore, for they have become the norm.
The prime minister suggested that, in the same way that a war on drugs is being pursued, with countries like Jamaica being faithful partners, there ought to be a war on guns.
Leaders from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and El Salvador were among those expressing concerns about organised crime and the common security problems they pose to the region.
Tackling the illicit arms trade and interrupting criminal networks is by necessity a challenge which the UN has taken onboard as these activities pose serious threats to peace and are clear obstacles to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals declared by the UN in 2015. A variety of international and regional instruments form part of the legal regime on firearms and includes the Organized Crime Convention.
For its part, the UN system in Jamaica launched its $70-million SALIENT initiative earlier this year. Described as a holistic approach, this strategy includes conducting violence audits, followed by crafting new legislation, training and law-enforcement reforms. Two communities, Denham Town in Kingston and Norwood in St James, were selected for the pilot project.
Notwithstanding this intervention by the UN, murder-by-the-gun is continuing apace, which begs the question as to whether this slow dance is what is really needed at this time or should we be pushing forcefully to plug the sources of these guns and ammunition, in the hope of restoring peace to Jamaica.
If the authorities are correct, there are as many as 200 illegal weapons coming ashore from Haiti each month. That’s about 2,400 guns each year from just this one source. The influx of weapons also comes from the United States via Haiti, as well as legally procured weapons which find their way on the black market.
Here is a major source on our doorsteps. Jamaican authorities have not been able to make any substantial breakthrough to stop weapons and ammunition coming from Haiti. We recall that, in 2021, the Biden administration promised to help Jamaica police its porous coastline to help put a dent in the guns-for-drugs trade between Jamaican fishermen and their cronies in Haiti. We have seen no indication of any robust effort or any success in this regard. We believe Mr Holness should once again seek help, either through the use of enhanced technology or increased manpower, to find the smugglers, intercept their cargo and arrest them.
Weapons seizures this year have reached 370, a mere drop in the bucket, if Jamaica is to put a dent in the illicit marketplace for guns. Moreover, as important as seizures may be, cutting off the supply pipeline will be far more beneficial to Jamaican communities who are living under constant threat of violence. Guns are used to kill people, but they are also linked to other crimes like corruption, human trafficking and gang activity.