Pulling back the curtain on his days at primary school, Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Saturday told young members of his ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that socialisation, good parenting, and education are key elements to steering youth away from a life of crime.
"I grew up in Spanish Town — 56 Cumberland Road, just down from the grass yard market," Holness told the Area Council One conference of Young Jamaica, the JLP youth arm that is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary.
"Lunchtime come and we run out, and we find piece of bamboo or piece of board and we make our toy gun and play gun war. Sometimes we are on the field playing for how long… class call and we would still be out there playing," Holness said, noting that he and his friends would also go to the library to look at books about guns.
"Before my friends and I research anything else, we take up encyclopedia, looking at guns. There is this fascination with guns, and then it got into our culture; gun lyrics and the glorification of guns," he said.
The prime minister told the conference, held at JLP headquarters on Belmont Road in St Andrew, that he related that childhood memory to highlight the fact that being exposed to something does not mean you have to act on it or adapt to it.
"I did not turn out to be a gunman, and why? Obviously parenting, and I got enough education and knowledge so that I could put things into context. The education and socialisation would have ensured that my moral standing is against that," he said.
"I do have friends who turned out to be gunmen and who have perished. People who I know personally, who sat on the same bench at Spanish Town Primary School. Different socialisation, different parenting, and many of them did not go on to do well in school. It's the reality of our society," he lamented.
In addition to the fascination with guns, he said there is a societal view that people need to arm themselves in order to protect themselves.
"Some people legitimately hold that view, that if the security forces can't protect you, then you should have your gun. And many people have presented defences in court to say, 'I have this gun to protect myself because somebody was threatening me.' All of these things kind of require a social consensus."