There was a time in Jamaica when no one carried a gun, not even the average policeman - a baton was sufficient. Individuals could hardly get a licence, and so even within the reach of businessmen, guns were not available. Later, the political garrisons were known to buy and sell guns and bullets; more private licensed firearms became available in security companies, thereafter with more business-minded individuals who needed the protection guns offered.
I can recall going into my business place in Parade downtown Kingston one Saturday morning about 9.30 am, 20 years ago, and bending down to pick up a newspaper from a vendor. I was held tightly by four young men, one of whom prodded my side with a knife, ordering me not to move. The four men patted me down to find out whether I had a firearm. One asked, "Where is the gun?" I replied that I did not carry one. Indeed then, and to this day, I do not carry a gun.
In the papers these days, so many articles tell of the problems of crime in our cities and towns, more often than not instigated by a group or gang. But this happens not only in Jamaica. In the United States, the government is trying to fight crime against criminals armed to the teeth with handguns and assault weapons, and they have a legal right to carry them under their constitution law (Second Amendment). It is difficult to manage someone who is legally right in carrying his gun, but not legal in using it.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a "tough but intelligent" approach to law and order, trying to find a middle ground to tougher sentencing and more rehabilitation of offenders. He advocates a "two strikes you are out" policy for violent and sexual offenders. This means that the second offence means a life imprisonment for the criminal.
The Mail on Sunday reported that Home Secretary Theresa May is also set to unveil moves to tackle gun-runners who bring firearms into the UK for criminal gangs. There will be a new offence of possession of an illegal firearm with intent to supply, carrying a maximum life sentence - up from 10 years for black-market smugglers at present. We need to do the same in Jamaica, let the gunrunners know that our border police have the same authority.
Until there is a permanent move of the perpetrator from our community, the gunrunner will constantly be in fear of his freedom. If we have to build more prisons, so be it.
At least we may have a prepared law from Britain that we may be able to use.