Alex Scott

Earlier in the year, the PM had floated the idea of introducing a gun amnesty, this so that the nation can finally rid itself of the scourge of illegal guns that almost always find themselves in the hands of  murderers.

It was the talk of the town, and many people wrote and spoke both for and against the idea. Much of it was good, some bad and others just partisan party talking points. After the settling of the dust (moving on to the next 9-day wonder) I think it is only right to go back and have a look at the idea of the gun amnesty as well as our new enhanced security measures.

In theory I am all for a gun amnesty. There are too many illegal guns in the nation and too many people are dying at the end of them. However, the reality is that this idea was DOA because a gun amnesty only works in a situation where the entire nation (man, woman and child) is on board, up to and including forcing people in with their illegal guns.

We don’t live in that kind of land, we are a land awash with sacred cows — from the dons to the drug movers to the politicians as well as the people who wash the illegal funds — and to touch or destroy a sacred cow is to incur the wrath of those who venerate it.

Do we really, for example, expect the PM to go after the illegal guns aligned to his party? Do we expect the PM to go after the members of his party who are ‘known’ to be involved in the cocaine trade (a huge reason for our illegal gun influx)? And on the flip side, do we expect the Opposition to go after the guns aligned to them?

Will either party go after the people involved in drugs, scamming or illegal imports (all of which require a large arsenal of illegal guns for defence) who finance their campaigns?

I don’t think so, and quite frankly neither does the population, which is why this idea died a quick death. That and the fact that we have tried gun amnesties before with no positive results because of sacred cow syndrome.

It does, however, highlight a Government and State willing to say and do any and everything to quiet the restless people (action without a plan) while maintaining the golden goose.

Put another way, the suggestion of a gun amnesty was simply another attempt to show the voting population that something was being done regarding crime (possibly even the birth of a plan). The golden goose and the action for actions sake are obvious in the launching and maintaining of the failed SOEs in western Jamaica, operations which were launched simply to play to the public (action for action’s sake) while ensuring that the tourists don’t have to endure what the everyday Jamaican has to endure (secure the golden goose).

This is the hallmark of an Administration which is either clueless or doesn’t care about the well-being of its people, only that of tourists and investors. It is easy to give in to the wishes of the people without doing anything constructive, and time and time again this and previous administrations have only taken the kind of action which looks sexy, appeases the baying masses, but leaves the problem of illegal guns and murders unresolved (in fact it heightens it).

I will always ask, if the SOE was needed so badly, why start in the west and at the time you did? The answer is obvious and I have made mention of it before: the first SOE came after the shooting close to Sangster Airport (see the golden goose) which also coincided with an increased public demand for a crime plan as murders across parishes skyrocketed (see appeasing the plebs). Kill two birds with one stone while never solving the underlying issues.

These actions are doomed to failure. This can be seen in both the violence which continues unabated in the west as well as the public outcry for a crime plan as the violence spreads.

Governments’ (past and present) failure to act has caught up to us as the remedies are long term and costly. They are the kinds of things that are not usually spent on by a country tied to the IMF because it requires large scale investment the results of which won’t be seen for decades. I maintain, as bad as the ZOSO legislation is (and it is atrocious in many places) it can be used as a first draft to cure our social ills.

Western Europe had its Marshall plan, the USSR had its 100 years in ten, both of which cost the proverbial arm and leg. The results were not truly seen for decades but were needed if those nations were to have advanced. We need our version of 100 years in ten, we won’t be getting a Marshall plan anytime soon.

This means massive spending on the social side. Building schools, training teachers of every stripe, paying them above what is normal in order to keep them. It means social centres, full and increased funding for social institutions and the training of social workers. It means a full investment in our society (both infrastructure and personnel) and a total shift in how we think, as well as locking up and shooting the occasional gangster.

Most of what is needed is boring, time consuming and expensive (see election losers), not to mention that it would affect directly or indirectly too many powerful people. And those reasons preclude them from being done, cowardice, the fear of losing an election or worse still, pissing off ‘dark’ donors stops the nation from having an actual crime plan and forces government after government to try unsuccessfully at pandering to the public’s basest desire (boots on the ground). The public don’t think that way though, and it is highlighted again and again when they demand, beg, plead for both parties to come together and seriously deal with the issues of illegal guns and crime.

The proposed gun amnesty, the failure that is ZOSO and the constant use of SOEs show that no plan is in the work. It is more of the same, possibly harsher and with new invasive measures but no real fixing of the problem.

Courts are falling apart, the DPP can’t buy a win, it seems, for love or money, and the police continue bringing cases to the DPP which have no chance of success. There is no crime plan.

Houses are going up left, right and centre, the nation enjoys record employment and still the guns bark, and young men sleep on the road after a day of wiping windscreens, there is no crime plan.

What there is, is a lot of talk and action to protect the money. St James continues to bleed, breaking a new record this year, more boots for a lengthy stay, the Government says, all while basking in the ‘glory’ of a record tourist season. There is no crime plan; there is a plan to appease us and ‘secure the bag’.

We must demand a change; we can no longer afford to do what we have done in the past and continue to do up to today. The society is on the brink, with violent crime seemingly everywhere, corruption ever-present and our economic situation always being precarious we are one accident away from a failed state.

Crime is something we can fix, violent crime especially, and to do so would help greatly in eradicating corruption and boost the economy. It is going to cost money, it is going to take at least a decade, but it can and needs to be done and it is something almost everyone accepts as fact.

It is time for us to demand more from those who have the power or put in office those who will listen to us and act on those demands. No more appeasing, no more pandering and no more sacrificing us for the tourists. A crime plan or a failed state are our options and I know which one we want.

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