Gun violence can easily spiral out of control
Stabroek News
November 3, 2001

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Dear Editor,

Guns, guns, let's give guns to everyone who claim to have a need. This is the connotation of many letters written on the subject. I have lived in the New York and New Jersey area since the late sixties and have seen the decay of neighbourhoods, not due only to drugs but a combination of both drugs and guns, and those who are bent on seeking immediate redress for some perceived illegal act perpetrated on their person.

I have seen the accidental shootings by both illegal and legal guns. I have seen the society transformed from quiet to disquiet. I have also seen the police, because of fear that every citizen may be armed, repeatedly shoot first and then express regret later. I have also seen kids shot while asleep in their beds by others who acquired their guns by stealing or borrowing it from law abiding citizens. The transformation of these neighbourhoods occurred as guns and drugs became a compatible partnership in the hands of both the well intended and the criminal mind.

Many guns were in the hands of "law abiding citizens" with and without a permit, this has caused many government entities, in many states, to institute a no questions asked "Guns Buy Back Programmes" with some modicum of success. Yet the killings continue. The list of those killed includes children, legal gun owners, police, criminals and the ordinary law abiding citizen. Some of these killings were accidents and others constituted gun induced machoism on the part of many who would have solved their disagreements seeking other solutions.

Guns by themselves do not kill or harm, but once society accepts and becomes dependent on guns to solve the problem of inefficient policing, then there is no turning back to the tranquil environment that is now broken; the environmental destruction becomes almost irreversible.

Let's take a look at Guyana and see if the necessary crutches or vehicles are present to aid guns in destroying the "whole neighbourhood".

Today Guyana is growing with alarming speed in the use of drugs, this behaviour, coupled with other social vices such as drunkenness is the combustible aid through which guns will be more effective in destroying the social fabric of Guyana's society.

There is a vast difference between living the experience of gun proliferation and drug use and seeing the devastation that guns bring, from the devoid thinking that guns are the answer to lawlessness. It is erroneous to think that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens will curtail criminal activity. What has been written about guns not offering much protection to the legal owner is factual. Observant Guyanese living abroad would have seen the fallacy of such thinking. Guns in the hands of law abiding citizens may not remain in those hands. Every legal gun is a potential illegal weapon in the hands of someone with criminal intent.

I will not reiterate the arguments of others against gun introduction policy, but will implore that the answer to Guyana's crime problem is more effective policing with checks and balances in place to redress police abuse of all citizens and the swift and fair trial and incarceration of the law breakers. The people of Guyana must demand more police in their neighbourhoods at all times.

In one city I have lived in, by nightfall most inhabitants living in the street stayed in with locked doors. This occurred even though the police were clearly visible. Shots were being fired from every dark corner directed at no specific victim. The vacancy rates of private home were alarming. Each month someone in the city was deceased from gun shots. Eventually it reached the point where that part of the city became somewhat ghost like even in daylight. To say that fear had gripped the city is an understatement.

Believing, therefore, that the private citizens should be given guns to protect themselves is to completely miss the point of the escalation possible.

The argument about whether guns are sold in New York state is irrelevant, for Guyana is not New York. Once a permit to carry a gun, or have a gun at home is issued, a person may purchase a gun in the state in which they reside. Americans have the right to bear arms ( against whom it is not clear) written

in their constitution. From infancy, the American society used guns to solve any number of problems. Today that is still the case, and civil minded politicians are fighting tirelessly to rid or limit society of guns. Why then some Guyanese are so blindly calling for the introduction of one of the developed societies most destructible export is beyond my comprehension.

I am hoping that the more progressive political minds prevail and leave the guns where they are made. Such action will spare Guyana regrets later, as gun violence spirals out of control.

Yours faithfully,

Patrick Barker