Public concern about the proliferation of illegal guns in the society has more often than not been directed at the sources of these weapons. The assumption has been that the guns are smuggled in as contraband contaminating commercial trade or there is illicit importation by way of sea or airlift into remote landing strips in isolated sections of the island.
In recent times there has been speculation that Haitian refugees coming in by sea are also involved. With foreign military personnel keeping the peace in that benighted territory, somehow the refugees are able to get weapons which become part of an illicit trade for ganja.
Much of this is speculation since the security authorities understandably are wont to keep a lid on the kind of intelligence they need for crime control.
But what is beyond speculation are the regular reports of violent incidents involving the use of illegal guns. The recent spate of such incidents in Montego Bay reached a climax of sorts with the ambush attack on a police car resulting in injury to three policemen.
The Montego Bay situation plus the recent Mountain View Avenue episodes in St. Andrew are obvious targets for the attention of the Peace Management Initiative. This useful agency has sounded a new note of concern about the guns.
As reported in last Saturday’s Gleaner, the PMI says it believes that guns are being rapidly accumulated in some communities “to be used for political ends.”
We are not here concerned about the semantics of whether guns are being “accumulated” or “stockpiled”; the distinction apparently being a point of conflict between some members of the PMI in alluding to the manner in which the media have reported the matter.
The important point is that the PMI personnel have reason to believe that “lethal weapons are accumulating rapidly in the inner city and across the island”. That is critical for political violence reached its ugliest phase in this country when guns transformed party conflict in the ’70s and ’80s, supplanting the benign sticks and stones of earlier decades.
According to Saturday’s report, however, the Police High Command are baffled by the PMI statement. One superintendent said he had no evidence of such accumulation in his division.
It seems to us that it is incumbent on the PMI to pass on the relevant information to the police. We accept that it is important for the PMI to intensify its commitment to the reduction of conflict and in doing so it relies on the support and goodwill of the communities in which the agency operates.
Equally important is the obligation to support the security forces in the vital task of crime prevention and control. Illegal guns are the primary tools of the criminals who are really enemies of the state.