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Muddled thinking on guns

Published: Feb 16, 2017

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We’ve already had 28 murders this new year. That’s a lot for such a small country. We are on pace for more murders than in 2015 when there was a record 146.

The crime problem is situated in New Providence where most Bahamians live – and it goes beyond killings. There are high rates of thefts, robberies and break-ins too. People are scared and frustrated. They want to feel safe.

Free National Movement (FNM) candidate for Long Island Adrian Gibson on Tuesday called for the implementation of legislation to allow Bahamian citizens to carry handguns amidst “out of control” crime.

“It is my personal view that we should consider adopting a right-to-carry law, much like the United States, where applicants who meet prescribed criteria are issued permits to carry concealed handguns,” said Gibson, who is an attorney and former teacher and journalist.

“My personal view is that restrictive government policies should not be allowed to trample upon peoples’ right to protect themselves.”

The commissioner of police is the current licensing agent for handguns. It is difficult to get such a license.

“Indeed, responsible citizens could be assessed on a case-by-case basis and should be equipped to protect themselves as necessary or appropriate,” Gibson added.

“While we pretend that there’s no real threat, the crime statistics clearly show that we’re walking down the same road as has already been travelled by so many of our Caribbean counterparts, where crime is out of control.”

Gibson is saying several things all at once. It has been interpreted that Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms. You can walk into a retail store in the U.S. and buy lots of guns just as you can buy lots of shirts. That is a different situation than there being a restrictive licensing authority that scrutinizes applicants and selectively grants permission.

It is irresponsible to suggest that we adopt the American way of allowing people to have as many guns as they want, including assault rifles. Such a policy would turn our country into a zone of anarchy.

Gibson though, while saying opposing things, seems to really mean that he thinks the licensing policy for handguns should be liberalized, rather than adopting the full U.S. system.

“... Accountable, law-abiding community leaders, businessmen and persons of that ilk should, if they apply for them, be allowed to carry a handgun,” he said.

“Heck, if they could have a shotgun or rifle, why not a handgun? The criminals have armed themselves to the teeth and rather than using BB guns and slingshots, they are using military grade, high-powered weapons.”

Robbers have targeted many retail business owners. If you sit with them you hear harrowing tales. A few have handgun licenses. But we know many who would like one who have been rejected. Police want to minimize the number of handguns. It is reasonable to state that vulnerable people who are in good standing should be able to apply and receive a handgun once they meet reasonable, established criteria. This should not mean, however, handing out thousands and thousands of handgun licenses to everyone.

Gibson should be careful in his public statements on this issue. He is vying to be a policymaker. Bahamians do not think there should be further mass gun proliferation. When you add guns to environments with poverty, lack of education, high unemployment and high crime, you get even more violence.

We need to work on our crime problem. We need to work on making The Bahamas safer. To do so parents and families must put more effort into raising our children with productive values; the public education system must be improved; job-creating policies are needed; the criminal justice system has to be more efficient and fairer.

Let’s not militarize The Bahamas. Let’s not utter simplistic suggestions. Let’s commit to the hard, long-term work of building a less violent and more compassionate society where our young people choose to build rather than shoot and kill.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2017 05:23


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