Important step for gun control
The move by the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security to partner with US law enforcement on the specific issue of gun control has the potential to deliver significant change in the management of illegal firearms in the Caribbean.
The collaboration is to be called the Crime Gun Intelligence Unit, and its mandate is to increase illegal-gun seizures and identify and charge conspirators engaged in the gun trade.
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds described the new agency, which will tap into regional and international agencies as a historic partnership on this critical crime and security issue.
Among the agencies expected to participate are key US agencies, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau, Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection.
The capacity of the region to meaningfully respond to the traffic in illegal guns has the potential to be meaningfully strengthened. The US, which has lax restrictions on gun ownership and trade relative to global standards, actively supports the export of weapons, and the impact of the weapons trade in the Caribbean and Latin America has been deleterious in the extreme.
Gun sales are a billion-dollar business and will only be controlled through efforts to limit ownership and accessibility.
The growing appetite for legal guns is driven by a perceived need to respond to increasingly brutal criminals. It's an eye for an eye, leaving the country unsustainably awash with guns, while doing the average citizen no favours.
The granting of firearm user's licences has run wild, and the government's recent plan to involve the national security minister in the process was sensibly rescinded in the face of concern over political influence.
The Police Service doesn't even seem sure where the guns are coming from. Some senior officers insist that guns are coming into the country from Venezuela, while others believe the majority are being shipped in through legal ports of entry from the US. It's still too easy to access an illegal firearm in TT, and too many criminals have the will and lack of conscience to use them to maim and murder.
According to the World Population Review, TT is currently ranked 16th among the world's nations for firearm-related deaths per 100,000 citizens. Venezuela tops the list, with the US ranked at 22.
Between 1990 and 2016, the TT mortality rate resulting from firearm use doubled from 6.7 to 12.7 per 100,000. When firearms are used, innocents are wounded or killed in the crossfire. Children die, their lives snuffed out in senseless exchanges of gunfire, often over imaginary lines of "turf" drawn by gangs.
Gun killings in Latin America and the Caribbean are predominantly linked to the drug trade, so efforts to manage illegal guns must be tied to efforts to reduce the allure of TT as a port of call for drugs transhipment.
"Important step for gun control"