THE EDITOR: Sometime after the retirement of the late police commissioner Randolph Burroughs, he lamented that the present-day police had been handling crime too soft. In Grenada more than two decades ago, Prime Minister Eric Gairy, reflecting on the growing crime rate in his country, remarked, “Does it not take steel to cut steel?”
These remarks suggest that in order for both countries to experience a reduction in criminal activity there must be some degree of escalation in their use-of-force policy. But the police must be seen as exemplars as it relates to complying with our laws that are on the books unrescinded and still binding.
Contrary to the opinion of former commissioner “Bro B,” the handling of crime by the “present-day police” is above board. What is clearly in contention is the soft and petty gun control laws under which this country operates.
Currently the maximum sentence for gun possession is five years. One wonders what is the rationale for such sentencing. The death sentence is this country’s penalty for murder. However, should an offender be caught with the killer weapon in hand but is obstructed in his bid to discharge the weapon, shed blood, and take lives, his sentence is five years. He can also appeal that sentence and be granted bail as 120 days may have been passed while in prison awaiting his trial in court.
A country’s crime rate can be determined largely by the quality of and adherence to its gun control laws. The police’s intelligence-driven operations are in order. The anti-gang legislation seems to be working fine but, regrettably, our gun control laws are in shambles and void of any sting whatever. In addition there is nothing in place to serve as an effective deterrent to the possession and use of this killer weapon.
Using Singapore’s firearm laws as a pattern, this country would enjoy a significant decline in gun violence and a reduction in our murder rate, but due to that country’s stringent firearm laws this writer would not advocate for full and total emulation of its sentencing policies. Being found in possession of a firearm in that country carries the death penalty.
In TT a sentence of nothing less than 65 years should be imposed on any one found in possession of an illegal firearm. This proposed term of imprisonment is designed to serve not only as an effective deterrent but also as punishment that is commensurate with the gravity of the offence. A referendum should be held to determine whether this inflated sentence would sit well with the population.
One cannot expect a different result should we continue to do the same thing in the same manner repeatedly. Amendments to our laws are required so that gun possession, shooting at police and prison officers should now become totally unbailable.
In compiling the Holy Book of Laws there was divine inspiration and there is no similarity when drafting laws to govern countries with ethnic, social and other forms of diversity. The framers of such laws surely would have missed the target from time to time.
Praises and honest appreciation should be showered on today’s police team headed by Gary Griffith and to our dedicated prison officers headed by Commissioner Gerard Wilson as they strive to function under these harsh and adverse conditions.
We implore them to persevere and not cease to operate within the legal framework, anticipating that suitable amendments would soon be drafted to effect those changes in our laws so that TT can become a model nation leading the world with crime statistics that are at all times remarkably low.
DAVID C O’NEIL via e-mail