I disagree with editorial, more firearms should be issued so people can protect themselves
Stabroek News
October 10, 2001

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Dear Editor,

I refer to your editorial [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] posted on September 6 ("Guns, guns everywhere"). Surprisingly, no one challenged it considering that it is very misleading in its attempt to be cautionary. The title itself, upon close inspection, forces one to have reservations when one reads that it "is not at all difficult to acquire firearms these days." Really? Then one would imagine that most people in fear for their lives have illegal firearms (or have the wrong gun-shop address). Your editorial, despite its good efforts, alludes that in addition to professional criminals, law-abiding locals sorting out squabbles with triggers have become ubiquitous. This is a dangerous precedent to set, which can harm the miniature tourism industry and conjures unnecessary fear in the minds of locals.

I strongly disagree with the statement that "every beleaguered businessman or household" should not be allowed licensed firearms, since it is likely to result in "more gun crimes-family violence in particular-and accidental shootings where children are usually the prime victims." I am not convinced by this for two reasons; 1) the legal gun-carrying community of Guyana does not have a history of such accidental crimes, and 2) it suggests that Guyanese would begin to self-destruct as if the regard for our own safety would be renounced once we acquire this mean of securing our welfare.

Let me reiterate a view I expressed some months ago when Indian people were being beaten. Internal security is Guyana's primary dilemma. Nothing of worth will survive in Guyana if internal security is not established. The Dialogues, for example, have failed to address this issue for reasons beneficial to both the government and the front Opposition party. But this isn't my concern herein. But let me say this; that the time has arrived for Guyanese to err on the side of safety, to achieve security, rather than on the side of complacency.

In a normal society, the "three-fold" solution offered by your paper, to "sterilise" the existing gun supply and to strengthen existing legislation and methods to deal with and curtail gun trafficking at "traditional smuggling points," are supposed to be adequate. Unfortunately, we do not have a normal society. The general public is at odds with the Guyana Police Force for numerous reasons. The average Indian is at odds with the PPP government over their failure to deal with their security concerns. As a matter of random sampling, one may find that most of the crime victims are quite poor people.

Further, the drug trade will not disappear, nor will border patrol become easier overnight. The 70-80 deportees with criminal records will not settle for a job at GTM or NBIC. The fact that the gunmen who attacked the 5 fishermen on the east coast a few months ago, demanded packages of drugs, indicated (as this newspaper noted) as did the discovery of a NATO-listed weapon that something colossal is occurring among us. Rightfully, the editorial stated that our "government and the Guyana Police Force" are still "to address" the aforementioned "three-fold" issues. Even if they were to accelerate with turbo boosters, it will still require years to bring Guyana back to a state of security using these methods only.

How do we explain that since 1992 the government has failed to put the National Community Policing (NCP) programme in gear? A few months ago, a senior police official, Mr. Paul Slowe noted that not only is this programme really necessary, it requires much improvement. At the 6th NCP policing conference held in August, one head member complained; "Too much is being said and very little is done." In addition to a call for the removal of the national committee which they view as an appendage to progress of the NCPs, members complain that firearms are not being made available to do their job. When the Roberts sisters (Berbice) were attacked by gunmen in July, community policing members, armed with sticks and cutlasses, were forced to give up the chase after the armed men reached a 'bushy" getaway area.

So, why should people place their welfare solely in the hands of these inept institutions, knowing that they (women especially) are being brutalized etc.? Why, editor, should your readers be convinced that the great disparity that exists between the criminals apprehended under PPP rule, and the crimes committed, will be drastically reduced by some miracle to be performed by the police? And if the police are becoming sophisticated (and we know this isn't exactly so), are we to believe that the criminal community isn't? Assuming that I accept your paper's position, that an amnesty-for-gun programme should be installed, how do I convince the families of crime victims that it is sensible to expect high profile criminals to trade in their lucrative careers for a job shuffling papers behind a desk?

However hard it is to be a gun advocate, it is a position that has been forced upon me. However threatening is the reality of having a firearm at home, it is a reality that Guyanese must begin to accept. Long ignored or downplayed, responsible gun allocation and necessary training for reputable citizens nationwide must be integral parts of any crime-fighting policy. All business people, farmers, and creditable citizens (including NCP members) must be granted licensed firearms and training. The more dependent we are on ineptitude, the more complacent we will become. Why wait until the next brutal wave of crime is committed to educate ourselves about this immense need? The longer we take to realize this, the more attacks we will have to endure.

Yours faithfully,

Rakesh Rampertab