15 Dec 2010

Guns and attitude

Several articles I saw in the news this morning gave me pause.

The first is an article in the Newsday reporting on a call by Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan “to give legitimate citizens more access to firearms to properly defend themselves.” He was following a similar request by Tobago Development Minister Vernella Toppin-Alleyne for all citizens to bear arms.

The second bit of news is the recent clash between vendors in Port of Spain and the police, which turned violent, and ugly.

These two are related, if only by the question I asked myself, “What if those vendors had access to legitimate guns?”

I admit, I don’t have access to statistics regarding gun crime, but on the surface of it, people who go about armed in societies that permit this seem to face a higher incidence of violent (gun) crime. It is easy to use the the USA as an example, with incidents like the Columbine shooting and others of similar ilk. However, it may be better to point out that societies where guns are not permitted like the UK face lower levels of gun crime. Even the majority of police officers in the UK aren’t armed.

My thoughts however go beyond the availability of the gun. It went almost directly to the attitude of the people living in these societies. When you look at the Trinbagonian society, it is often far more complex than that of the USA or the UK. The attitude of the UK residents (and those who move here, even from on the Rock) is one of compliance and respect for authority.

Can we say the same for the typical Trinbagonian? Sad to say, I cannot see that. Where a Trinbagonian can break the law, and get away with it, s/he will do so, and revel in the ability to ‘put one over’. Whether it is breaking the speed limits, talking on a cell phone while driving, or being drunk while driving, driving on the shoulders of roadways,  tossing rubbish (garbage for those Americanised), leaving said rubbish on the beaches, selling on the streets and blocking pavements/access, squatting on lands that do not belong them… daily incidents are often too numerous to recount accurately.

Putting guns in the hands of those who are inclined to break the law, in a society already demonstrating tendencies of extreme violence, is a mistake. Frankly, I believe putting guns in the hands of the majority of the police dunceys is a dangerous idea and I have said so repeatedly over the past years this blog has been existing. I am all for putting them out unarmed, and in short pants.

All too often we see said police dunceys reaching for the revolver as the first solution. No dialogue, no compromise… nevertheless, for any inroads to be made into curbing crime, we must first change the attitude of the people, not arm them with guns.