The flow of guns and ammunition must be stemmed somehow
A file photo of guns and some of the ammunition seized by police and Customs officers at Kingston Freeport Terminal

Violent crime has haunted this country to an extreme degree for as long as most people can remember, and the evidence suggests the situation is worsening.

The effect of the terrible stories, day in day out which the news media, as the people's trusted messengers, must tell are demoralising, to put it mildly.

In yesterday's Observer, for example, we read of traumatised 16-year-old Mr Christopher Rommany Jr, who lost his father as well as a teenaged friend just recently in a shooting in Hayes, New Town, Clarendon. Five other people were reportedly injured in that incident when gunmen alighted from a car and opened fire on people gathered at a shop.

Statistics provided by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) showed 805 murders between January 1 and July 16, a two per cent increase on the 786 murders for the same period in 2021.

At the current rate, murders at year-end will exceed the 1,463 in 2021.

As Jamaicans are well aware, the gun is the weapon of choice for local criminals dating back many decades. How to reduce the inflow of guns, mostly originating in the United States, is a major problem not just for Jamaica but for every country in the Caribbean and wider Americas.

Efforts to tighten porous borders are largely constrained by inadequate resources. And, while we know diplomatic efforts at the national and regional levels are ongoing in a bid for America to do more to reduce the smuggling of guns and ammunition from that country, there is little to show.

A big problem is that very liberal laws in the United States make it easy to own guns, including high-powered varieties. In some US states, a gun owner need only be older than 18. In such circumstances, smuggling becomes so much easier.

As has been noted previously in this space, the number and scope of high-profile gun tragedies in the United States appear to be gradually influencing public opinion towards a tightening of gun laws there. However, reports of the high value of the guns and ammunition industry in that country underline the extent of the problem. For, as is well known, money will 'make the mare run'.

Word from a US House investigation says gun manufacturers earned more than US$1 billion over the past decade from the sale of AR-15 style guns. We are told that for two companies, sale of such weapons light-weight semi-automatic rifles commonly used in mass shootings led to a tripling of revenues.

We hear that the rifles are often marketed as a way to prove masculinity with some ads suggesting they place owners "at the top of the testosterone food chain".

We note an estimate that the US weapons industry could be worth in excess of US$70 billion.

Such news is depressing for countries like Jamaica, since we know that regardless of other anti-crime initiatives the inflow of weaponry must be stemmed somehow.

Notwithstanding the high degree of difficulty, Jamaica and its neighbours can't afford to throw up their hands in despair. Efforts must be redoubled at every level to tighten border controls, improve surveillance systems, and strengthen diplomatic channels to reduce the deadly inflow.

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