Seeing to it our safety is assured

On no less a day than that when this nation was celebrating its achievements over the past 49 years of Independence, and hours before the start of the Christmas season –– known for good cheer and giving –– the scourge of gun violence again reared its ugly head.

Two young men were fatally shot, leaving their families shattered and crying for justice –– a grim reminder that even though we are sovereign, we often fall short of our best. That the criminal acts occurred in St Philip when hundreds where playing mas’ at the parish’s annual Carnival has rightfully evoked fresh outrage.

When will this lawlessness stop?

According to the account provided by a relative of the first victim Dwayne Burgess, the 35-year-old was shot after an altercation with another man.

His grieving aunt Beverly Gittens told Barbados TODAY: “Them need to bring more police or something to stop this foolishness from happening. Every year somebody getting shoot or robbed at this thing [St Philip Carnival].”

Beverly Gittens (left) and Marcia Gittens
Beverly Gittens (left) and Marcia Gittens

It is mind-boggling why anyone would attend a carnival with an illegal weapon, when such an event is merely for having a grand time, whether
you choose to dance, eat drink, or just lime.

Must we now resort to staying indoors under lock and key? Is nowhere safe from those who are bent on terrorizing our society? You would probably here a resounding no from the brother of the second victim Shane Nurse.

Troy watched his brother being shot multiple times moments after he reportedly asked a group of men to stop throwing bottles into his yard.

“One of the guys say, ‘Or what you gine do?’ So the same time my brother and I get up and went to shut the gate. As we get up, this guy just open up fire on us out of nowhere.

“It was just a simple request. What kind of frame of mind you could be in that you shoot somebody for just asking to stop breaking up bottles.”

Almost every week, throughout our country, lives are being taken and families crushed by the gunfire. Too many people are dying. Too many guns are getting into the wrong hands.

Barbados appears to be reaching a tipping point where it is evident that strategies being utilized to address the gunplay in our communities have not made the impact desired to curtail the violence that has become so commonplace.

Routine statements pledging to tackle gun violence in our society will not suffice without evidence of the necessary resources, manpower and infrastructure to address the issue in a systematic and meaningful way.

We have no axe to grind with the Royal Barbados Police Force, which has been doing a stellar job in challenging circumstances. The burning question here, however, is: how do we get to the heart of the issue? Indeed, how do we put real resources that are sustainable towards capping this gun violence?

And how do we awaken other stakeholders to the gravity of the problem?

Yesterday, Acting Attorney General Michael Lashley recommended that Barbados follow in the footsteps of neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago and tighten penalties for gun offenders, including the imposition of a 100-day wait before they can apply for bail.

We aver it’s a move worth considering. Add to that harsher fines and longer prison terms!

Equally, there must be a greater effort on the part of the public to treat the issue of gun crime more seriously. Illegal guns are no laughing matter, and citizens must take a stand and report anyone –– be it family member, friend or neighbour –– who illegally carries a weapon.

Churches themselves too have to step out of their buildings and traverse communities to tackle the societal ills that feed the crime scourge.

We have to get to the heart of problem versus playing politics or the blame game. Every citizen and visitor are depending on the powers that be to provide the safety they have long enjoyed and deserve –– rightfully so; but we all have our part to play in ensuring that security.

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