Time to Fight Fire with Fire

Gun violence, as a subject, has taken up a lot of space in this newspaper over the years. There are times when we feel we have said everything that can possibly be said about the violence caused by guns, especially illegal ones in the hands of mindless individuals filled with a false sense of importance and bravado.

That this violence continues up to today, regardless of the efforts made by the agencies authorised by law to protect citizens against this destructive nature, is overwhelming.

To be fair, the authorities have engaged in certain measures aimed at reducing violence, for example, ensuring there are more police patrols in the country today compared to earlier times in areas considered hot spots.

Further, government has provided better and needed equipment to the police force, and the Firearms Act has been amended to include, among other things, a Firearm Licensing Board (even though we are not aware of licensed firearms being used in the recent mayhem).  And just two weeks ago, a prayer march was held in a particular hotspot in Vieux Fort, to send the message that violence in whatever form is not tolerated in that part of the country.

But despite all of that, there is this nagging feeling that the criminals are winning this fight, as they appear undaunted by all these measures.

Giving credibility to this nagging feeling is the constant shooting deaths and other shooting incidents, which occur in the country, notably on a weekend.

Today ends week 33 of 2022 and already we have recorded 42 murders. The math is simple. We have so far recorded more than one murder per week. A statistic bent on worsening despite police giving the appearance that not only are they talking the talk but are walking the walk as well.

Points to consider:

– Are criminals truly undaunted by the efforts of the authorities which are aimed at reducing gun violence?

– And if indeed they are, could such indifference be laid at the feet of the strategies, measures and plans in place by the authorities, in that such strategies, measures and plans are not effective at all in deterring criminals in their pursuit of violence.

– Why are the criminals so emboldened? And shouldn’t their emboldened nature be investigated?

– Is the State dealing with the root cause of gun violence in the country or is it providing quick fixes?

The last five years have been the bloodiest in Saint Lucia’s history. The country last year recorded 75 murders, the most in a calendar year. In the last 20 months a record 117 murders have been committed, and in the last six years, well….

The murder statistics are not encouraging for a nation with just under 200, 000 inhabitants; in fact, they are downright horrifying. The Firearm (Amendment) Act which boasts of tougher penalties for criminals convicted of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, seems not to be a deterrent at all to the criminals.

About 80 percent or higher, according to police, of the murders committed in the country result from bullets from a firearm.

This situation cannot continue any more. The war talk of the State must come with results. On one hand we have parliamentarians, when in parliament, speaking of taking the war to the criminals, while on the other hand statistics from that ‘war’ show more attacks being launched by the criminals, resulting in more deaths, particularly of young people.

It is time to fight fire with fire, an option the authorities can consider if they are serious about stamping out gun violence in the country. And how can this be done? Instituting a state of emergency on communities labelled ‘hot spots’ is one way of fighting fire with fire. Another way would be to instill curfews on a population within a community. Curtailing the movement of residents within a certain community could lead to a reduction in gun violence.

Government needs to remove the kids gloves and prepare to deal harshly with perpetrators of gun violence. That kind of strategy works. Remember Operation Restore Confidence!

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