Curbing gun violence Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
February 14, 2007

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IN ONE article published last Sunday in this newspaper, it was noted that the Guyana Police Force resolved – at the closing of its annual conference – to “aggressively pursue measures to reduce the number of illegal guns in the country.”

An article published in the following day’s issue underscored the dire need for this pursuit.

During what was supposed to be a night of fun and frivolity, one of the GPF’s very own met his end. According to our report, New Amsterdam constable, Michau Cort was shot while on duty at the Carib Soca Monarch semi-finals – he died several hours later in the Intensive Care Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital. Constable Cort was just 27 years old.

Gun control is not the perpetual political hot potato here as it is in the United States, for example. There is no constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms here in Guyana so the possession of guns does not invite any serious and sustained social commentary either for or against.

Yet the need for a clamping down on the number of guns present in the society becomes clearer every day. If the long term objectives fall under the ominous yet ambiguously defined “descent into chaos” category, the short-term imperatives are more obvious and more pragmatic.

As an emotional and as excited as cricket games occasionally get, the likelihood that there will be the odd incident of hooliganism during the ICC Cricket World Cup matches to be hosted here is fairly high. Throw a loaded gun or two into the mix and what you have is a recipe for disaster.

Then there is the upcoming Rio Group Summit. While it may be improbable that any serious incident will take place at the meeting of a relatively non-controversial body as the Rio Group, it still is not impossible. There is really no way of predicting what opportunity some member or the other of the lunatic fringe may see in this high profile gathering.

In both cases, any widely publicised incident involving the use of illegal firearms can irredeemably tarnish Guyana’s image abroad, effectively crippling our fledgling tourism industry.

While we have passed the zenith of gun-related crimes in the post- Mash jailbreak era, with fewer incidents involving high-powered weapons, there seems to be a rise in the use, if not general proliferation, of smaller arms.

Good examples would be the shooting of Constable Cort and the recent caught-on-tape robbery of the Royal Castle outlet. Handguns are easier to conceal than those larger automatic weapons so can more easily bypass security officials, whether we are talking about a large public event or a fast food restaurant.

The possession of a firearm is a privilege. To curb the continued gun violence which is occurring in Guyana, it must be ensured that this privilege is one that is extremely difficult to attain and extremely easy to lose.

Unfortunately, our firearm licensing system has not had the best of histories so that several legitimate licenses may be in the possession of not so legitimate people.

This means that, even though the GPF’s recently stated commitment to clamp down on illegal guns is a timely one, this promised hard-line approach to gun possession needs to be applied when necessary to licensed firearm holders as well.