Can Holness top Manley on handling guns?

Monday, January 09, 2017

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Dear Editor,

Winston Churchill said: "A pessimist looks for difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist looks for opportunity in every difficulty."

In 1974, in response to a wave of killings, Prime Minister Michael Manley instituted the Gun Court Act and the Suppression of Crimes Act. The Suppression of Crimes Act gave the police and the army new powers to seal off and disarm high-violence neighbourhoods. The Gun Court imposed a mandatory sentence of indefinite imprisonment with hard labour for all firearm offences and ordinarily tried cases in camera with no jury.

Can Prime Minister Andrew Holness top this in 2017 Jamaica?

Is history about to be repeated? Michael Manley at the time said something poignant, "There is no place in this society for the gun, now or ever." That is the approach Japan has taken in order to achieve its single-digit murder rate with the gun. Apart from having a rigorous gun control policy for private citizens, the aim is for all police forces to abandon guns entirely. Since murders with the gun tops all other types of killings there must be a major push to "get the guns" and make it near impossible for guns to enter our country.

Since we have gone the route of special legislation, special police squads, ‘bad bwoy’ policemen, suppressing crime through hard policing, net fishing and spear-fishing of suspects, etc, there is no need to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

We have followed a direction where when criminals have a big gun we give the police a bigger gun. We have been arming civilians and the police in the society as if to match the Americans, and they cannot even stop a mentally challenged man from carrying a gun on a plane. To eliminate gun violence we must first eliminate guns or the need for guns. It is the same common sense approach we have used in reducing the population of the Aedes aegypti, the vector which causes dengue, chikungunya and Zika, and it has worked.

Mark Clarke

Siloah PO, St Elizabeth




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