Sociologist — Tougher gun control to deal with murder rate
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, August 18 2013
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Shhayd Salandy of the Laventille Road Police Youth Club plays the pan to the admiring gazes of Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, left, and ...
As the Government and security forces mull over strategies to contain crime, sociologist Dr Ronald Marshall believes that “draconian” gun control legislation must be brought to the Parliament as a possible solution in stemming the wave of murders in the country.
“There must be draconian measures for those who have firearms without a licence and it must not only be jail time but a lengthy period (in jail),” he told Sunday Newsday in an interview on Thursday.
“There must be real tough gun control measures. People must think twice about attempting to carry a gun.”
Speaking in the wake of the murders in East Port-of-Spain, Laventille and other parts of the country within the past two weeks, Marshall urged the Government to critically review its firearms policy as it relates to penalties and the criteria for acquiring a firearm.
“There are businessmen with firearms who die fighting with bandits because they, too, have firearms. Some firearms also find themselves in the hands of criminals,” he said.
Marshall said the passage of such legislation in the Parliament should “make a dent” in murders, at least on a micro level.
As of yesterday, the murder toll stood at 241.
The bloodshed in the crime-plagued East Port-of-Spain area, last week, prompted a visit from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who announced that police and soldiers will be camping out at a building on Duncan Street, as part of a joint initiative. She said death penalty legislation will also be re-introduced in the Parliament as a possible deterrent to criminal activity.
PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley also said the Opposition was willing to work with the Government in the Parliament to avert the high levels of crime.
But even as Marshall called for tougher legislation to deal with guns, he also said that a comprehensive plan to fight the illegal drug trade must be formulated, particularly in hotspot communities.
Failure to institute such a plan, he said, will only fuel the already high levels of crime in the country.
Marshall said, “The guns and the drugs are ending up in the hands of youngsters and when we begin to answer why this is so, only then will we get a handle on things.”
He called for a “determined and systematic” macro approach to deal with the problem which he said must be a collaborative effort involving security agencies and perhaps the Ministries of Planning, Community Development and Social Development and the People.“The approach has to be non-confrontational where you move into these areas with a plan and change things around. The existing structures are likely to diffuse and it will keep the activity from flourishing,” he said, adding that high-level surveillance could detect “facilitators of such criminal acts.”
He said the authorities have, so far, focused too much on “quick-fixes” as opposed to getting to the root cause of the problem.
“This (crime) is a problem that has been festering for a long time and it has to do with a breakdown in the family, the school, parenting skills and morality,” he said.
“We have not been looking at the root cause and with the best measures the solution will only be temporary.”
A lecturer in the Department of Behavioural Sciences at the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, Marshall also called for “proactive and pre-emptive intervention” on the part of the authorities.
He said if people continued to live in fear, because of the perceived ineffectiveness of the Police Service and crime-fighting measures “people will be forced to use their own devices and take matters into their own hands.”
Marshall also responded to the view that the killing spree was being carried out mainly by young men in depressed communities, some of whom he said, were driven by the need to acquire some measure of wealth, despite limited education and skills training.
He said the illegal drug trade, for many of them, represented that quest for wealth.
As such, the sociologist said Government officials and others specialising in youth development, should not abdicate their responsibilities “because certain positions changes behaviour and outlook,” in young people.
“The youth are facing a different social landscape where they are in search of instant gratification because they have been bedevilled by the displays of wealth among some sectors of the society,” he said.
Marshall said while handouts were necessary for dealing with persons in dire situations “there needs to be a system where people can create and be masters of their own destiny.”
The sociologist said the family, perhaps the major institution in the society, also had a critical role to play in ensuring that children are well-socialised.
Marshall said as long as young people received a “strong upbringing” from their parents, it would be difficult for them to go astray at school and in the wider society.