Crime in the Caribbean: US manufactured guns fueling violence Loop Barbados

The content originally appeared on: Barbados News

Guns manufactured in the United States feature prominently in crimes across the Caribbean.

CARICOM leaders identified the illegal purchase and shipment of US-manufactured guns as a major issue that is contributing to the escalation of crime.

Speaking at The Regional Symposium: Violence as a Public Health Issue – The CARICOM Challenge held in Trinidad, Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas and Chair of CARICOM, said every gun used to commit a crime in the Caribbean is smuggled into our countries.

We intend to challenge the laws that previously protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits

He said in The Bahamas, 98.6 per cent of all recovered illegal firearms can be traced directly to the United States. In Haiti, 87.7 per cent of all recovered firearms can be traced likewise. In Jamaica, it amounts to 67 per cent of all recovered firearms and in Trinidad and Tobago it amounts to 52 per cent.

He said CARICOM has discussed the issue with the US government and gun manufacturers.

“We have asked the US government and US-based gun manufacturers to cooperate with CARICOM member states when it comes to identifying weapons purchased in the US, as a part of a wider effort to hold weapons dealers 16 and traffickers accountable for the many lives lost to gun violence each year. We must call on our neighbours to the north to better police the trafficking of guns from the US to the Caribbean,” he said.

He said last month, the Bahamas, along with Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Mexico, working along with the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Human Security, jointly filed a brief in the United States Court of Appeal in support of a $10 billion lawsuit to hold US gun manufacturers liable for the destruction American-made guns have caused in our 17 countries.

“It was an action initiated by the Mexican government. We intend to challenge the laws that previously protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits. We are sending a clear message to the world that we are very serious about fighting gun violence in all forms and on all fronts, not just the homefront,” he declared.

In a multimedia presentation detailing the fight against crime in The Bahamas, Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander showed how guns are smuggled from the US into the islands through shipments of goods.

He showed a video where firearms were hidden in boxes of cereal shipped into the country.

The Bahamas saw 128 murders in 2022 with 117 shootings. Fernander said in 2022, 270 pistols, 22 revolvers, 30 shotguns, and 38 rifles, the weapon of choice, was taken off the streets. So far, this year, over 100 weapons have been taken off the streets. Fernander said illegal firearms are used in 90 per cent of serious crimes.

He said in an effort to deal with the proliferation of firearms in the country, the Chief Justice has established two courts to deal with firearm offenses and an anti-gang and firearms intervention task force was established that includes all law enforcement agencies.

Speaking on the Jamaican situation, Major General Anthony Anderson, Commissioner of Police, said in recent times they have seen a shift in guns controlled by criminal organisations and gangs to the democratization of gun ownership thanks to the rise of illegal and illicit money via scamming. He said the young people are using the money made to purchase guns to use against their rivals.

Speaking on a panel with other regional heads, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said AR 15 and glocks are the weapons of choice in Jamaica even though they are not manufactured there.

He called on CARICOM to urge the United States to assist.

“We must consolidate our efforts to lobby, particularly the United States, to assist us. As we assisted them in the war on drugs, they must assist us in the war on guns. It is the greatest unfairness that we have diverted resources from other areas we could have spent to fund and support a war on drugs…but there seems to be no real interest in stopping the other part of the trade which is the guns. The guns fuel crime, they are an accelerant, they are needed to protect drugs transshipped to our borders and in turn, used for other forms of activity,” he said.

Holness called for more expenditure to protect the ports of entry and change laws to stem the flow of weapons into the region.