CARICOM has declared war on guns, starting with a decision to ban automatic rifles in the entire region.
This was the final development of the two-day symposium on crime as a public health issue at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, which ended on Tuesday.
“Caricom heads have agreed today to take a decision to ban the use and presence of assault weapons in the civilian population of our nations.
"We are undertaking and all of these undertakings would have serious budgetary consequences to provide greater support for those who need it and to do fundamental restructuring of our education system,” the Prime Minister said.
Dr Rowley added that Caricom will send a communiqué to the US Government signed by regional Heads of Government pointing out that a main contributor to crime and violence in the Caribbean was the proliferation of firearms from US manufacturers.
Rowley, echoing Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ position – on the first day of the symposium – called on the US to assist them in the war on guns, the same way the region assisted the US in the war on drugs.
“Sellers of those products started using our territory to poison American children. The US is still fighting that – a drug war it is called. Because the majority was going north to the US we could have just said let it go. We have the authorities to say make it legal. But we said no we will fight the trade.”
“But our people have a love for gun and the guns started to do to us what the powder was doing to the US. Today we are saying to the US the same way we fought with you to prevent the powder from going up north we want you to fight with us to prevent the guns and ammunition from coming into our territories.”
US DEALING WITH OWN GUN ISSUES
Speaking with reporters after the close of the symposium on Tuesday, a panel comprising Caricom heads including Rowley, Jamaican PM Andrew Holness, Caricom chairman and Bahamas PM Philip Davis and St Lucia PM Philip J Pierre was asked whether there was a realistic expectation that the US would intervene.
Also present at the symposium on Tuesday was US Ambassador to TT Candace Bond, who later shook hands in a show of diplomatic unity with PMs Rowley and Holness.
Rowley told reporters that, at the moment the US itself is having similar conversations concerning gun manufacturers and the effects of the products that they sell.
“The issue is with gun manufacturers who are selling a product for which there is an appetite increasing and encouraged,” Rowley said.
Holness added that if Caricom does not begin some action, the firearms would continue to flow into the region and wreak havoc.
“It is by putting the situation to the US whether by legal channels, diplomatic channels, bilateral channels – by joining together as we have done – that we will change the narrative, outlook and perspectives. So at the moment it would seem that it is unrealistic expectation but if we continue to lobby, if we continue through the legal and diplomatic channels, change will come.”
In March the White House issued an executive order with the goal of reducing gun violence in the US. Included in this executive order were clauses aimed at holding the US gun industry responsible for the high rate of shootings, through mandating that gun manufacturers provide the public and policy-makers with more information on federally licensed firearms dealers violating gun laws.
The executive order also encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report analysing how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors.
MEXICO ALSO CHALLENGED
On Monday, legal advisor for the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs Miguel Reyes highlighted Mexico’s battle with the influx of US weapons coming across the Mexican border.
In August 2021, Mexico sought to have the companies introduce greater discipline to monitor the chain of commerce and prevent weapons from reaching unauthorised users. The lawsuit was dismissed because of laws which gave US gun manufacturers immunity. In October 2022 another lawsuit was filed, this time targeting five US gun shops and distributors which it claims are responsible for the flow of illegal firearms into Mexico.
The murder toll in TT for the year is now 171. The number of mass shootings committed in the US with four or more wounded or dead now stands at 160 for the year.
According to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an analysis of public mass shootings which resulted in four or more deaths showed that 85 per cent of these shootings were done using assault rifles.