Caricom leaders are moving to ban the public’s use of assault weapons and have also promised to write to the US government to demand a stronger effort to prevent the flow of guns into the region and to stand with Caricom the same way Caricom stood by the US in their war on drugs.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley made the announcement yesterday at the two-day Caricom Symposium on Crime came to a close at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain.
Addressing their move to ban the use of assault weapons from civilian populations, Prime Minister Rowley explained that over the years these weapons have slowly been licenced to the civilian population.
“We are saying that we do not require those weapons within our society in a commonplace way because of the outcome of the presence in the society. We can continue to provide protection with small number of handguns in the population,” the PM said.
Rowley didn’t say when the legislation would be brought or if it would require Opposition support. However, he noted the regional leaders did all ask their oppositions to support them as well with the legislation moving forward.
“While some people are fighting to roll back what they have done, we’re saying let’s not go there, because there is not a solution to our problem of safety and security,” the PM said.
On the issue of the influx of guns into the region, Rowley said dialogue with the US was one of a few issues they agreed to speak on with one voice as part of the action plan coming out of the symposium.
He said a letter was to be sent to Washington, adding he had every confidence President Joe Biden would take it seriously. He didn’t go into details about the exact contents of the letter, but said it was being backed up with evidence that the threat was not just real, but was being experienced.
“The islands in the Caribbean cannot sustain the death rate and the economic destruction that this wanton use of arms and ammunition is raking on us,” he said.
The Prime Minister recalled the start of the drug war, when cocaine seeped onto the streets of the United States and they solicited the help of the Caribbean to join the war against drugs.
“Today, we are saying to the United States, the same way we fought with you to prevent the powder from going up north to poison your community, we want you to fight with us to prevent the guns and ammunition from coming into our territories,” he said to rousing applause from the audience.
He said it could not be that the Caribbean was still fighting the drug war and now that guns and ammunition were destroying societal arrangements, it was of no interest to the United States.
“We want a greater effort in preventing the manufacturers of these killing machines and projectiles from having the profit-making outcome that is killing our people and destroying our society,” he said.
But during a media conference featuring the Prime Ministers of Jamaica, St Lucia and The Bahamas, leaders were asked what confidence they had in the US considering their problem with guns and assault rifles in their countries.
“If we do nothing then nothing will happen,” said Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
“That person’s right to bear arms has been converted, in our view, to a right to traffic in arms and that cannot be right,” said Bahamas Prime Minister Philip David.
Prime Minister Rowley said the US could help by funding border protection as well as helping countries with training, information gathering and tracing.
Prime Minister Rowley also promised a convening of attorneys general from the region to draft a suite of model legislation related to some of the plans and promises made at the symposium.
He said instead of each territory trying to make its own legislation, countries would use the model agreed to on a Caricom level.
“So, we get some harmonisation of legislation with respect to crime and criminality.”