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Commentary: Can Jamaica fix the crime problem by issuing more guns to its citizens?
Published on August 9, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Derrick Miller

The role of law enforcement has always been a tough task. It remains a struggle between perception and reality. An officer, as I have argued, takes on work that many could not fathom.

At the end of each shift, they only want to get back home to their family like everyone else.

Derrick Miller holds a BS degree in economics and finance, an MBA in global management and a MS in criminal justice leadership and management. He has worked in the US public safety and criminal justice field for over 14 years. He can be contacted at
Today, on some of these troubled islands prone to high crime, a vast number of officers now face a rising tide of guns as they struggle to differentiate who has legitimate right to carry a weapon, from criminals.

On Monday, July 17, 2017, a former local counselor candidate, an officer killed Warrenton Barham of the Jamaican Labour Party after he shot and killed a 24-year-old woman.

According to the reports, after the officer arrived on the scene, and ordered him to put down his weapon, he refused, and was fatally shot.

It appears that both criminals and authorized people to carry a gun are now emboldened to challenge police officers because they have a gun too.

Economically, the difference between the haves and the have nots on these shores is life and death.

Sadly, the gun issues have come down to that same theory.

After this incident, the revictimization echoed through social media as some blamed the victim for what seemed to be a love triangle that went bad.

Law enforcement swiftly came under attack, as many argued that the officer did not have to discharge his weapon.

What if he had been simply arrested?

Given his public profile, and low conviction rate in homicides in Jamaica, the question some would be asking, can justice be served for the victim and her family?

This is domestic violence, and that often gets overlooked.

No one outcome will please everyone.

They are all victims of the system that lawmakers and security leaders have created.

Although this incident does not confirm that Jamaica has everyone slinging a gun on every corner, it confirms a mentality that these armed civilians and criminals believe that the local laws and policies do not apply to them.

Warrenton Barham’s political party is not a reason in this case; it is another form of domestic violence that preceded his premature death.

Violence against women has been an epidemic along these shores that continues to be washed out to the sea.

The community should demand an answer

Did the officer fear for his life, and this is where an unbiased and transparent investigation is needed.

Equally important, maybe, before issuing these permits there should be more scrutiny.

Today, regardless if leaders and the community want to admit it, civilians are dying at an alarming rate where a sense of community security has eroded.

To obtain a gun it now seems that all you need to show is that you have a small business, are well-connected or a politician

According to the National Victimization Survey, almost half a million people become a victim of crime committed by a gun in the US alone, and Jamaica’s murder rate per capita according to the United Nations and other reports remain one of the highest in the world, and most of these deaths result from shooting.

Normally a disagreement on the island was fought with few stones, a loud debate, few choice words, or a stick.

Today, a gun is the choice one faces in any civil disagreement. And owning legal weapons does not give one the right to take lives in any disagreement.

Where are these weapons coming from?

There is a rough wave looming, and with a quiet revolution not only against law enforcement, but also the helpless community who are the victims.

At a time when communities are suffering economically; they now feel as if they are in a war zone under constant alert even for those who return on vacation out of the tourist protected zones.

This mayhem also puts legal gun owners at grave risk as criminals target them for their weapons

Several studies have shown the chance of one becoming a victim is lower without a weapon in the home.

It seems as is if globally people in general are becoming divided, and violent. Others have no respect for the rule of law.

Scholars have written about the root causes of this violence, such as poverty, and other socio-economic issues, and what leaders are not doing, and what can be done

When conflicts arise today along these shores, and with limited resources to mediate, vigilante justice seems to be the only solution.

These troubled islands tend to adapt industrialized nations’ laws; however, some do not fit these shores because of the lack of resources to fully carry out their own unique system.

Citizens should demand better standards of living, schools, roads, education, medicine, human rights, victims support if anything should be adapted.

Owning a weapon on these shores, I understand the personal and community’s wider safety concerns why there is an increase appetite to be armed.

Regardless if one has deep roots, support of government policies or not, in Jamaica, and other parts of the Caribbean, the idea that everyone now could be armed with a gun is nauseating.

Some of those who are now armed perhaps could not recognize the words "weapon” or “safety" on a piece of paper to pass a regular safety test but are better armed than a trained officer.

Government officials must begin to revisit the policy on the issue of these weapons.

What are the eligibility standards; including a comprehensive mental health assessment for applicants?

Owning a small liquor bar that sells few beers and pieces of chicken on the street side, or a few trucks does not mean a gateway to be approved or simply have an image of a business person for a gun.

The same argument has appeared for some drivers that were issued driving permits not based on what they knew about the rules of the road, but whom you know.

This by-passing of rules has contributed to catastrophes on the road by putting other legitimate drivers at greater risk on some already dangerous and poor roads.

Jamaica must move beyond the photo-ops, and a few days of talk on the radio while victims often gets lost in these airwaves.

There are still concerns on gun related violence, gang activities targeting visitors, robberies, kidnapping, child abuse, domestic violence, and murders, as in other places.

This 24-year-old woman is just one of many being killed by their husbands and boyfriends who have access to guns.

Police officers are now at greater risk.

And when there is a justifiable killing or not, it only emboldens criminals to believe that they are under attack.

The argument must be debunked that arming everyone can reduce crime.

If people want to serve their community, and being armed to get policies implemented, I believe it is the wrong career path.

From an earlier report, Mr Barham lost his counselor bid to a former police officer who gave up his gun, retired from the force and to became a counselor.

According to many in the community, he accomplished more without his weapon.

What next does one need to be now armed after clearing customs?

An armed Caribbean only leads to more violence and more erosion of public safety for law officers and the community in general.
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