We must press even harder for US cooperation to stop the flow of guns
Firearms are displayed during a news conference at the Homeland Security Investigations Miami Field Office (HSI), Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Miami. HSI is working with other agencies to highlight efforts to crack down on a recent increase of firearms and ammunition smuggling to Haiti and other Caribbean nations. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

A US$25-million cocaine seizure at Ian Fleming International Airport in St Mary this past weekend reminds us of ongoing close cooperation between Jamaican and US law enforcement.

We are told that the operation was carried out by Jamaican agencies with intelligence support from US counterparts.

It's an easy guess that the illegal cargo was bound for the lucrative US market, with Jamaica being a trans-shipment point.

Close cross-border cooperation has repeatedly led to such busts. Sadly, such is the demand for narcotics in North America and elsewhere that criminals with regional and international reach continue to risk prison, or worse, by continuing the trade.

There has long been a feeling in Jamaica, the wider Caribbean and Latin America, that while our countries make great sacrifices to assist the United States in its war on drugs, there is nothing even close to reciprocity on the part of our rich and powerful northern neighbour in controlling its illicit export of guns and ammunition.

Not just in Jamaica but throughout the Americas, the gun is the weapon of choice for criminals. In the great majority of cases, the USA is the original source of guns and ammunition.

We are told that the gun is used in about 80 per cent of murders here.

Lest we forget, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Periodic Crime Statistics Review, which covered January 1 to September 7, said there were 1,055 murders recorded for that period this year — a 7.4 per cent increase over the similar period last year.

Against that backdrop, we applaud Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness's call at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York for developed countries (read United States) to do more to stop the flow of guns and ammunition across borders.

That's in the context of Latin America and the Caribbean facing an epidemic of crime and violence.

Said Mr Holness: "From organised transnational criminal enterprises to street-level gangs, to the misguided youth in the inner city, the availability of guns is driving an ever-increasing homicide rate.

"In the same way that a war on drugs is being prosecuted, in which we have been faithful partners in policing what comes through our waters or leaves our shores, there now needs to be a war on guns. Jamaica does not manufacture guns, but our population suffers from the effects of widely available guns. The countries that manufacture weapons that are available to the public must implement stronger measures to ensure that those weapons do not end up on streets and in the hands of people for whom they were not intended..."

He said further that, "in the same way there is concern about illegal drugs on the streets of the rich countries, there must be concern about guns on the streets of developing countries like Jamaica".

Obviously, countries like Jamaica must help themselves as best they can. In that respect, we expect that the new Firearms Bill and other crime enforcement legislation under consideration will help.

But let's not fool ourselves. Without the full cooperation of our neighbours to the north, the inflow of guns and ammunition will continue.

Mr Holness and other regional leaders must not retreat. They should intensify their calls for urgent action.

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