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Gated communities, armed citizens and close friends

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Fri Sep 12, 2014

Editor: It happens all the time, in every society, in every age. Criminal elements target each other in turf wars, with the gruesome results splashed on our newspapers and talked about from rum shops to dining rooms. The generally peaceful populace sits back and hopes that they would eventually kill themselves in a sort of natural realigning of the human landscape. {{more}}

Like the natural environment, which seeks to maintain balance, we hope that balance will be restored as they, the violent and criminalized, die young and childless, thereby preventing another generation of violent men, and in some cases women. However, this hardly happens. In time, violence becomes widespread. The criminals become younger and smarter, the innocent get caught in the crossfire until they become the target (the list of friends who have suffered at the hands of criminals is growing). The security forces respond with greater force and other well-intentioned efforts, policy makers create harsher penalties and fear sits like a slow moving fog on the land. To arrest this seemingly inevitable slide I have a few suggestions.

I want to propose the following for dealing with this escalating issue:

1. Law-abiding citizens should seek to be armed and trained in using these arms. With licensed firearms that are registered, those that follow the law will have the capacity to defend themselves in the face of violence. They would no longer become fodder for those who, because they wield a gun, think they have a right to act without facing the consequences. The right to defend one’s self and property is a universal principle. The balance of power will remain in the hands of the peaceful and law-abiding. And if you are thinking that your child may get his or her hand on your firearm and accidentally harm themselves or you, remember that swimming pools cause more accidental deaths than guns in the hands of law keeping citizens.

2. People who are able to and like-minded should form gated communities. I have had the privilege of spending time in one such community. Doors are locked and protected by a password, neighbours are cordial, evening primroses compete with the smell of curries and baking bread, dogs are leashed and the street is clean. Noisy music systems do not exist and when the night falls, chairs are filled with smiling bodies on porches that give you a wonderful view of the starry nights. Form a gated community with armed neighbours.

3. Employ armed guards for your property and person. Again, this can be done on a community level. Guards patrol and make sure safety is maintained and enjoyed by all. For those desirous, they can hire well trained unobtrusive personal guards who provide 24-hour security.

4. Institute longer sentences for gun-related crimes for first time violators. For second time offenders the death penalty should be considered as a viable option.

I do admit when reading these points that they can sound harsh or extreme. However, we are compelled to look at the present situation with a clear set of lens and make decisions that are borne out of reality and a visionary outlook. The past teaches us that what is considered extreme in one age becomes normative in another. These aren’t so extreme because we think the situation will not spiral out of control. If we act now we can prevent much.

OR

The above paragraph is one position that can be taken on the issue of escalating gun-related crime in our society. It may seem attractive for some and detestable for others. However, there is another perspective that one can take.

1. The majority of people in St Vincent and the Grenadines desire to live in a society that is peaceful and orderly. In the face of violence they can become fearful, afraid and anxious. Or they can choose to take steps to remain unafraid and undaunted in the face of violence. This takes effort and prayer and a conscious choice to believe in a good God who will bring all things to completion. Remain fearless.

2. Those that choose a life of crime are in the minority. The majority of men (most crimes are done by men, but not all) are not thugs or criminals, even if some dress in a way that you may not like, they are not criminals. Maybe they suffer from a stunted sense of style, but they are not criminals. Every effort should be made to prevent these men from filling the ranks of those who choose to be criminals. At the macro level, they should be given every opportunity to engage in productive, ennobling activity. And though this may seem overly optimistic, I believe that many men want to work, live at peace and enjoy the fruit of their labours. In other words, do whatever it takes to remove the environment that breeds criminals and yes, being criminalized is partly the result of our environment.

3. Strengthen by emphasizing the values and cultural norms that when practised will aid in creating a society of peace. This can take many forms, but the arms of our culture: business, art, religion and education can all promote these values.

4. Community engagement should be proactive rather than reactive. Evidence can help us identify those possible “hot spots” that are close to the boiling point. Through mediatorial work in conflicts and community enhancement we can arrest some of the ills that exist in certain communities that allow those that live there to incorrectly think that they are fated to become criminals.

It is true that these suggestions, at least the most recent list, are broad based and long-term. They demand more effort to flesh out the general concepts. They demand multiple stakeholders involved in deep dialogue and sacrifice. But the issue is on our doorstep we need to start acting now. I am sure the authorities are already on the ground thinking through these issues, so maybe in some small way these can help.

K S E Lewis

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