Reducing the Impact of Illegal Gun Ownership in Barbados

The Barbados Government recently held an amnesty for illegal firearms, during which 32 guns were handed into police stations. Although this is a positive result, without tracking down the original source of these weapons, and dealing with aggressive and violent criminal behaviour, the death toll from guns will not be reduced.  Legitimate gun ownership is a privilege, and, with the prevalence of violent gun crime, it’s important for responsible citizens and the police to be able to use licensed guns in self-defense. However, controlling the import and use of illicit guns is now a priority in order to maintain the safety of the island.

Promoting Responsible Legal Ownership

There are believed to be roughly 10,000 guns in the country, but it has been estimated that 70% are unregistered and held unlawfully. The right to bear arms is not a constitutional right in Barbados. Instead, a licence to carry a firearm is a privilege granted by the Commissioner of Police to eligible and responsible citizens. According to Sniper Country, the decision to carry a concealed weapon for self-defence should not be taken lightly.

Tackling the Underlying Causes of Gun Violence

Firearm amnesties may help to lower the number of guns on the streets. However, a simple reduction in the use of illegal firearms doesn’t address the underlying issues behind gun violence. Lengthy prison sentences, and even the threat of capital punishment in the past, aren’t deterring criminals from using guns. As a result, one party leader is asking the Government to do more to identify the causes of gun violence rather than simply increasing legislation in an effort to suppress it. A government criminologist has suggested that it is a growing aggressive element in society, with easy access to firearms, that is leading to too many deaths from gun crime.

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The minimum age for carrying a firearm is in Barbados is 25, and potential gun owners are required to establish a genuine reason for carrying a firearm. Unfortunately, criminals act with impunity, and it’s currently too easy for them to acquire an illicit weapon.

Effective Methods of Fighting Crime

Improving standards in offices of authority, tackling corruption, and tightening control at ports could all help to reduce the import and sale of firearms on the island. In addition, a study by the Inter-American Development Bank found that neighbourhood watches and proactive community policing had proved to be effective tools in the fight against crime. Combined with the promotion of successful programmes to rehabilitate drug users, these preventative measures could be more successful than heavy-handed attempts to stamp out violent crime.

As well as competent policing of gun crime, tackling the issues behind the extensive use of illegal firearms is essential. Identifying and dealing with underlying socio-economic problems and pervasive corruption will allow authorities to get to the root of the problem with gun crime, and ultimately protect the safe future of the island.

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