American guns, Jamaican violence, Cayman crime

Last week we were browsing through editions of newspapers in our region, as we do on a regular basis, when the following editorial caught our eye: “Obama’s gun-control plan doesn’t go far enough.”

The column goes on to discuss “exasperation with America’s obsession with arms that has helped cement it as the most dangerous developed country in the world” … “the wave of mass shootings that have flooded the streets of America with blood” and so forth.

While somewhat hyperbolic, the statements in the column constitute, more or less, fair comment — and under normal circumstances would not arrest our attention. Except for one thing: The source of the editorial, which decries the “crescendo of gunfire from assault rifles and modified handguns across the heartland,” is none other than the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Gleaner, of course, is the flagship newspaper of our dear colonial cousin to the southeast — a vibrant nation, rich in culture and natural resources; a beautiful island that thousands of our local residents still call “home;” and, statistically speaking, one of the most violent places on the planet.

Coincidentally, in Monday’s Compass we published a story about a jump in murders in Jamaica last year, bringing the country’s homicide rate up to about 45 slayings per 100,000 people. For the record, that’s about 10 times as high as the murder rate in the U.S. and three times the homicide rate in Chicago (one of the “murder capitals” of the U.S.), whose population of 2.7 million people is roughly equivalent to that of Jamaica. For the record, Jamaica is an annual fixture in the rankings of the world’s most dangerous countries.

Those numbers, of course, are not surprising. We mention them not to disparage the country of Jamaica, whose history is intertwined with ours in so many ways, nor even primarily to point out the irony of the Gleaner’s editorial condemning gun violence in the far safer country of the U.S.

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If that was all the editorial said, we probably would have raised our eyebrows and moved on, without any comment of our own. However, the second half of the editorial goes on to blame the ubiquity of guns in the U.S. for the prevalence of gun violence in Jamaica. “The U.S. government ought to recognize that its porous borders and lax security regime have been allies in the internationalization of American crime, with crippling consequences to Jamaica and other Third World countries that do not have the fiscal capacity or strong governance infrastructure to stem the tide” …

With a few pen strokes, the editorial board of the Gleaner substitutes the reality of homegrown violence in its gang-infested country, perpetrated by Jamaicans against Jamaicans, with the false image of an American insurgency.

People in Jamaica blaming Americans for gun violence in Jamaica is just as nonsensical as people in Cayman blaming Jamaicans for gun violence in Cayman … which, as it so happens, people in Cayman do all the time.

And that is the reason for our editorial — not to criticize the writings of another publication but to illustrate an error in thinking that is all too common (in Cayman, Jamaica and across the world) and, yes, dangerous.

In Jamaica — and to a much lesser extent in Cayman — the crime rate is a local problem — and the eradication of it is a local responsibility. Blaming others is a rhetorical diversion, not a practical solution.

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  1. Cannot make head or tail of this editorial, however must refer to the third paragraph from the last, which begins "People in Jamaica blaming Americans…….I cannot attest to that, but I would like to defend "Cayman blaming Jamaicans for gun violence….. I don’t think that is so, because while many guns in Cayman come from Jamaica, not all of them do, and beside the fact, you very seldom hear of any Jamaican shooting someone in Cayman.
    Right now if you speak with ten Caymanians, eight out of them will tell you that Jamaicans in this Country is not the biggest problem we have.

  2. The whole problem with gun violence, in the whole world is you can have all the laws you want on guns, but if the laws are not enforced youre going to have gun violence out of control. Then who can be blamed for the gun violence? I think it is the ones who don’t enforce the laws .

  3. The Gleaner editorial seems to mirror some of the comments made by Commissioner Baines in 2014 –

    The problem with this blame the USA argument is it ignores two points.

    The first is that while recovered weapons, apparently mostly handguns, are being traced back to perfectly legal sales made by dealers in the USA that does not explain the presence in Jamaica of large numbers of other weapons, like AK-47s, whose sale and export are either prohibited or closely controlled in the USA. Nor does it explain how any of these firearms are being smuggled unto Jamaica without being intercepted.

    The second is the small matter of geography. Jamaica is a lot closer to three countries where illegal firearms of this type are relatively easy to obtain – Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico – than it is to the USA. It makes a lot more sense to me to source illegal firearms in these countries than in a well-regulated and security conscious country like the USA.

    I think what has happened here is because the USA, in the form of the ATF, is the only country cooperating with the Jamaican authorities on this they have become wrongly identified as the major source of the problem when in reality it is a lot closer to home.

    The fact is that the USA should be respected for having stepped in to monitor the situation and deal with breaches of the laws while all the other potential sources of weapons are doing absolutely nothing.

  4. My wife and I were in Tokyo, Japan last year and amazed at the clean streets. No trash dropped anywhere.

    I was even more amazed after we bought some fast food and having finished looked for a trash bin. There weren’t anyway. I walked around for 10 minutes looking for a trash bin with no luck.

    My wife explained that Japanese children were taught in schools and homes to have civic values and to TAKE THEIR TRASH HOME! Unbelievable.

    My point is that good behavior starts in the home. Not just throwing glass bottles out the window as one drives but good behavior to others.

  5. Norman hit it right on the head, if you raise a killer but don’t allow him to get a gun he will just find other way to do his killing. Same for robber, how many people in Cayman are being robbed using machetes and knives compared to those that are robbed with guns. Guns are not the problem people are the problem and until the people problem has been addressed nothing will get any better. Stop raising generations after generations of thugs and start raising respectable hard working young men and women and then we will start to see change.

  6. After reading this editorial and the Jamaica Gleaner’s, I am left with the opinion that both writers are experiencing ”tunnel vision” and fail to recognize that gun violence (”the act”) is more related to social and cultural problems that are embedded in the fabric of our society. Guns (”the means”), as discussed, are related to MANUFACTURERS and SOURCES of weapons, such as mainland USA which is the closest and most accessible points to the Caribbean due to trade, culture etc.

    Whilst it is the responsibility of locals to create societies that do not promote a culture with the propensity for violence, by raising our children in the right way and removing influences of violent crimes (media, music, events etc), the MEANS to commit acts of violence will be available if the sources and manufacturers of guns are ignored. If the means are still there, even after raising your children right, the propensity to act violently will still be challenged by the availability of guns.

    Also, if the environment (poverty) is ripe for violence, such as in poorer nations like Jamaica and Haiti, and they are provided with easy access to guns, that is definitely a recipe for disaster.

    My point is that there is no single or easy analysis of gun violence or gun control. However, controlling the availability of guns is a good step towards reducing these crimes. Pinpointing the sources (USA, Mexico etc) is a necessary move to fixing the problem, and should not be seen as just another ”blame-game” because when you take a quick look at the situation, neither Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad nor Cayman has a single factory that mass produces guns and weapons. So, where are the guns coming from?

  7. Perhaps I can be the first one to open a legal gun shop in cayman. By allowing this, everybody who wants a gun will have one or two or more and another crime will be wiped off the books. Crime and imprisonment are actually growth industries. If everybody obeyed all the laws on the books, what kind of work would be available for police, court personnel, judges, attorneys, and law writers. Let’s hear it for more guns for everybody.