to reducing crime
South MP Kelvin Ramnath took the opportunity at a town meeting
at Basta Hall, Couva, on Saturday to call for legislation
that would give more citizens the right to bear arms.
Mr Ramnath may have had the best of intentions in mind for
his constituents, but he is absolutely wrong to advocate
any increase in the distribution of handguns in T&T.
Thats a call so far removed from any sensible response
to the current crime situation that it can be readily declared
The correct thing to do in a country as clearly awash in
illegal handguns as our nation is today is to find the points
of entry for these weapons and stifle them while methodically
capturing and destroying guns as quickly as possible.
Far from relaxing restrictions on gun ownership, the Ministry
of National Security should be doing more to penalise people
found with illegal guns and working to limit handgun ownership
to people with a level of legal training in weapons handling
that is appropriate to their anticipated use.
Crushing the gun barrels of seized guns and welding their
firing chambers, thereby eliminating them from use as future
weapons, would probably do more to stem illegal gun use
than arming more citizens.
The sharp rise in gun use in T&T over the last ten years
has parallels in developed nations and their experiences
can prove useful to us in planning our gun control strategies.
In the US, where gun ownership is prevalent and a powerful
lobbying organisation, the National Rifle Association, exists
to preserve existing rights of gun ownership, it took the
maiming of James Brady during an assassination attempt on
President Ronald Reagan to prompt the creation of a rival
body, the Brady Centre, which seeks to limit widespread
distribution of guns.
The correlation between the greater accessibility of handguns
and increases in violent crime and death is not limited
to the US. Switzerland, a country noted for its peaceful
and considered approaches to politics, has both one of the
highest rates of gun ownership in the world and the highest
rates of gun-related deaths.
This unusual circumstance is the result of Switzerlands
practice of universal conscription into the countrys
defence force, which mandates that all males between the
ages of 20 and 42 are eligible for service and requires
that they keep fully-automatic weapons in their homes.
Increased availability of guns among the general public
has been shown to increase the rate of fatalities in domestic
violence, an escalation that our country cannot contemplate
at a time when violence in the home is also a source of
The argument for self-defence in gun ownership revolves
around the notion that an armed citizenry is better able
to resist the predations of well-armed criminals. But that
idea falters in the face of reality. Criminals with weapons
are a focused, task-directed force that cannot be readily
countered by a population that is busy with the business
of daily life.
The only body that is both armed and on point for a response
to criminal incursions is the police force, and it is their
notorious failure to act appropriately in the face of declared
criminal activity that leads desperate citizens to hope
that a handgun in the home might be more helpful than an
officer claiming to have no transport.
Its important that the Minister of National Security
should understand Kelvin Ramnaths call for what it
isa cry for help in the face of intolerable circumstances.
Mr Ramnaths accusation that you cannot depend
on the police to come when you have a problem is worthy
of deeper consideration and more decisive action than any
absurd request for arming citizens.
The Couva South MPs accusation that the Minister of
National Security failed to spend $450 million on police
vehicles in 2007, demands a response from Martin Joseph,
and its a point that Mr Ramnath should pursue to more