Issuing more guns is a practical solution to the crime problem
Stabroek News
October 17, 2001

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Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter by Mr. Medrick Yhap (SN 10/12), who objected to my view that the responsible proliferation of firearms and training must be part of our anti- crime campaign. Mr. Yhap believes that because the possibility exists that criminals will take licensed firearms from their owners during attacks, my view is wrong.

First, we have far less people who have lost weapons to criminals than cases in which legal gun owners staved off criminal attacks.

He gave the following example, asking a few questions; "I remembered reading that an 11 year old girl was assaulted on her first visit to Guyana even though one of her relatives did have and brandished a gun. This gun was subsequently taken away from the family member by the attackers...Where is this licensed gun, issued to a creditable and reputable citizen now...Did this legal gun carrier meet his social and legal obligations to take care, custody and control of this weapon?"

This example is very inappropriate considering that vital information was omitted, which will unquestionably show that this man, an ex-policeman, did not wilfully give his licensed weapon to the attackers. Mr. Yhap did not remind us that the bus which this man (and relatives) were in, was one of many stalled due to the mammoth crowd that gathered during the funeral procession for the late Donna McKinnon; that some of the local crowd descended upon passengers to rob and injure, and that this bus actually tried to escape armed men on scooters etc., by seeking refuse in an Annandale home, but was forced back on the road after those who provided refuge were threatened.

Given these "facts" and knowing that in April, Guyana was very racially polarized, the relinquishing of this weapon instead of firing into the armed mob prevented more serious injury and, possibly, a bloodbath that could have pushed Guyana into large-scale racial and communal conflict. Sure, we lost a gun but we also saved numerous lives. Since Mr. Yhap feels that security is the job solely for the police, why did he neglect to inform us that when this man contacted a police station (on East Coast) for an escort, the police refused, saying that police presence would have only exacerbated the volatile atmosphere?

While it's common knowledge that all societies have their problems, it is no reason for us to accept ours readily; rape should not be tolerated locally because rape is committed globally. The point is, we have a culture of extreme criminal activity (among other regrettable realities) which has contributed heavily to making us less secure, stable, and productive. That most people elsewhere do not have to "keep vigilante" fortifies my view that we are not a "normal" society. Some Guyanese are fond of using foreign references to discuss domestic dilemmas, and since Mr. Yhap has noted gun-related incidents in the US, will he further oblige by indicating that the US Congress regarded school shootings as a severe problem and enacted new laws to curb such incidents, while our parliament still dilly dallies over our crime culture? Will he inform us that American women are not beaten with gun butts, that Americans are authorized to own firearms, and that the rate of gun-related accidents is minuscule considered against the millions (yes, millions) of families that own firearms? Will he explain that despite having firearms at home, Americans are not called "gunfighters"?

His suggestion that "businessmen are only businessmen" and should not be given licensed weapons (and become "gunfighters") crumbles when one applies the same rule to other professions; e.g., if cane cutters should only cut cane, then why do we have them "keep vigilante"? When Mr. Yhap says "there are legal, social, moral, political as well as racial ramifications in the use of force for self defense," what "racial" ramifications is he referring to. When should force be used if not to safeguard our lives?

Finally, readers ought to know that I, for one, never suggested that "wealthier business people" have the need for firearms exclusive of poor people (although it is the poorer people who almost never get firearms because they lack money, contacts, or a business; which further translates into the fact that guns issued annually by the police never reach a certain category of Guyanese). I noted (SN edited my line) that criminals do not discriminate against established businesses, ignoring small timers; that although crime is often attributed as an affliction directed against the wealthy, victims such as the late Bediwattie Tikchand (shop owner) do not represent Big Business or wealth. The point here is that firearms must be made available to people across racial, economic, and social lines, as a practical (not idealistic) solution to help arrest crime.

Yours faithfully,

Rakesh Rampertab