Cayman's growing gun culture

Saturday evening, 10 p.m. – A George Town man is walking home. Out of the darkness, two masked figures appear; one carrying a gun, the other a knife. The armed men offer up the old bargain — your money or your life — then abscond with their victim’s passport, bank book and cellphones, as well as about $1,000 cash.

Not too long ago, this narrative of aggressive gun crime in the Cayman Islands would hardly be believed. If such a thing did occur, it would be considered a bizarre, out-of-character event not likely to be repeated anytime soon.

Yet, this weekend it only took a couple of hours for it to happen again.

Sunday morning, 12:15 a.m. – Two local residents, a man and a woman, leave the Cayman Cabana restaurant and bar on the George Town waterfront. As they stand in a nearby parking lot talking, two masked men approach — this time, both wielding handguns. They take a cellphone and cash, then disappear into the night.

Looking back through recent archives of the Cayman Compass, this newspaper seems to be publishing many more stories about violent criminal confrontations involving guns.

The conventional wisdom historically has always been that there are very few illegal firearms in Grand Cayman — and that those guns tend to be kept in various “safe” locations, which the bad guys can “check out” (much like books in a library) when they are planning to commit a crime that warrants the firepower.

This assumption, however, seems to reflect the Cayman of yesterday, not the reality of today when guns appear much more plentiful, even commonplace.

Neither can we pretend any longer that gun crimes are confined to one district, as we continue to see incidents occur throughout the various parts of Grand Cayman.
This raises an inevitable question: If the quantities of firearms in Cayman have grown significantly, and more and more criminals are carrying deadly weapons, at what point should we reintroduce a serious conversation about what weapons, lethal and non-lethal, Cayman’s police officers should be allowed to carry (and which officers should carry them)?

We are not proposing that all local police should be issued pistols and shotguns tomorrow evening (much less the citizenry). However, if the nature of crime in Cayman is evolving, so too should our society’s response to it.

Reducing the number of guns and gun crimes will require renewed focus from authorities throughout the criminal justice system, not just the police. Just like with drugs, there are only two ways for guns to enter Cayman — by air and by sea. We at the Compass have received too many press releases lauding airport Customs officers for confiscating bullets from the luggage of homeward-bound tourists — and too few congratulating law enforcement for intercepting Jamaican canoes laden with drugs and guns bound for Cayman.

In August, while levying a fine against one of the aforementioned hapless bullet-carrying tourists, Magistrate Valdis Foldats said Cayman has a harsh regime “because we’ve decided we don’t want guns here.”

The magistrate’s point is sound, but in this case was targeted at the wrong audience.

1 COMMENT

  1. Guns in Cayman is like drugs, alcohol and over stayers, they will always be here. Money and get rich quick has brought this on, We choose to be in the fast lane; and it became drive or come off the highway.
    Now the question is, what do we do? Grin and bear it unless we have a plan. This one the government will have to figure out to protect citizens.

  2. how are guns getting here??
    there is no way to police the open waters, the amount of boats coming and going to and from Cayman are where they are coming from…. the fishing boat from Honduras? the sailboat from Jamaica? the recreational boat from Dominican? the power boat from the US…. are these boats boarded and searched extensively for weapons?… the answer is no… they are met at the dock and immigration stamps their passports… there needs to be better controls. No one is bringing these in on commercial flights…

  3. The government cannot realistically stop guns coming in, nor can it protect citizens during the seconds it takes for a bad guy to commit a crime. Many times they may go find the criminal later, but that doesn’t protect the victim, only future victims. And the reality is that the guns are already here. They don’t have a shelf life like apples. They are here to stay. You must allow trained, honest citizens to protect themselves by issuing carry permits and allow police to get trained so they can protect themselves and others as well.

  4. Scenario of an outbound person, whether tourist or resident. Be detained and arrested at the airport, taken to the police station, photographed, fingerprinted, body and luggage thoroughly searched, jailed or bonded, hire an attorney, appear in court, pay a minimum of 1000.00 CI, have a criminal record, lose your non-refundable flight and have to purchase a new ticket, possible consequences of not arriving at your destination on time, say loss of job or client. ALL OF THIS, to an otherwise law abiding citizen over ONE bullet that was dug out of your carry-on as you were leaving the country. That action is not a deterrent to any criminal trying to bring in firearms! It is a waste of valuable police and court time and a deterrent to tourists, especially from the states! Sounds and feels like a Mexican money making operation.

  5. Guns are a deadly weapon and are illegal in the Cayman Islands. I suggest the court double or triple the sentence for possession of a illegal firearm.

  6. Maybe a 1000 bounty on illegal firearms recovered with a further 10,000 – 25,000 (or more) bonus for convictions.

    Start off with an amnesty to allow people to hand in illegal weapons, but make sure they know that once that ends it will be ‘open season’ on illegal arms. Family members might well hand in a weapon rather than risk having a neighbour report their loved one.

    If a customs officer or port authority worker makes an extra 50,000 to 100,000 and some arms traffickers end up on an all expenses paid 10 year holiday to HMP Northwood, that sounds like a good deal to me.

    The answer is to get guns off the street, not to arm everyone else. The US is now seeing armed home invasions replace unarmed burglaries.

    Please let’s not have the faulty logic of;-

    Guns are illegal,
    So only criminals will have Guns,
    So we should let everyone have a gun to keep everyone safe…

    By that logic Flamethrowers, Napalm, Hand-grenades and Rocket Launchers should all be readily available to the populous.

    The correct logic is
    Guns ARE illegal – So someone with a gun IS a criminal.

  7. I agree with most of what Andy has to say.

    Add to these incentives massive disincentives for carrying out a gun crime.

    Massive rewards for information leading to a conviction. 100,000 Dollars plus.

    No bail so reduced ability to intimidate witnesses. But speedy trial.

    10-20 years sentences for anyone convicted of firearm robberies. Even if no shots are fired.

    We can get this beat and take our country back.

  8. It is quite unfortunate that this paper is indirectly blaming Jamaica for its so-called emerging gun culture. Every time there is an issue, instead of dealing with the crisis we look for a scapegoat. It cannot be that these guns are coming from Jamaica and no local Caymanian is involved in the trade. As far as my knowledge is, Jamaica does not manufacture guns. In Jamaica, the authorities there have identify Haiti as a channel where illegal gun enters that country. In 2010, Prime Minister of Trinidad Kamla at the UN called on the US to greater look at what leaving her Ports. She said in Caribbean our weapons of mass destruction is small arms that originates in the US. The Compass should call on the US and the UK to do much more in helping Cayman to protects her borders and also to stop the guns from US entering the Caribbean

  9. Guns are in the hands of criminals not law abidding citizens.
    No amount of public control of firearms via permits will change that.
    Very harsh sentences for gun possession are a must.
    The police should be very well trained, possibly being sent to the UK to attend
    training there.
    The fact that we have let this get to this point is indicative of a lack of will on the part of grand cayman politicians.
    Armed robbery out side a restaurant at 12 midnight in the middle of town waiting for your car does not happen in NYC but its happening here.
    Its certainly not good for tourism.

  10. Cayman’s growing gun culture is an unfortunate mischaracterization. A more accurate title would have been Cayman’s growing criminal culture. Handcuffing lawful firearm ownership to the criminal misuse of illegal firearms does not help the public’s understanding.

    For example, according to the replies to this editorial online, there are a number of people who wrongly believe that the possession of: Guns are illegal in the Cayman Islands. Mr. Andy Gray is the funniest, he said: Guns ARE illegal – So someone with a gun IS a criminal. Really? Quickly Mr. Gray, run and tell the police that the members of Cayman Islands Sport Shooting Association are in possession of firearms. He might nominate you for a colonial metal! There is a long history of lawful private firearm ownership and use in the Cayman Islands.

    When Magistrate Foldats in August of 2014 said: because we’ve decided we don’t want guns here. Who is the we to which the Magistrate is referring? Sir, the jury has reached a verdict to the contrary a long time ago.

    Cayman’s growing criminal culture is in desperate need of our attention, instead the public is hearing the disarmament of the law-abiding chorus, blah, blah, blah. Only the naive like would want to be at a disadvantage to criminals. Since laws are nothing more than ink on paper, the authors of the existing firearms law provided for a lawful physical means by which residents could use to help prevent serious crimes from being committed against them, if they chose to take on that responsibility. See section 18(1)(a).

    Anyone who claims to be a friend of yours, but at the same time is preventing you from having a means of protecting yourself is not your friend at all. If one celebrity Caymanian was still alive today, she could tell you why the idea of depending on an armed police officer who is somewhere else when you’re being murdered is foolish.

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