What more can be said about gun violence in this country that we and others in the community have not said before. Each time such violence rears its head, the rehashed responses flood in. That flood ebbs away nine days later reducing the landscape back to its original state. And the cycle continues…
However, we are hoping that this time around, the old responses will ignite a flame, as tiny as it may be, that will change things around for the better. But we are not so naive as not to know that for this to happen an extreme shift in the country’s policy on gun violence is needed.
We cannot, just cannot, have a recurrence of what occurred in Marchand last Sunday night where a gunman/gunmen, shielded in a moving vehicle, opened fire at an unsuspecting small gathering of neighbours causing death, mayhem, fear, destruction, nightmares and more in the community.
Many Saint Lucians will say that the Marchand community is no stranger to violent gunplay, and yes, they are right, as several of these incidents have been recorded in the pages of this newspaper over the years. But which community in this country can say that it has not had its share of gun violence?
This 238 square mile country of volcanic origins, advertising to the world its sparkling beaches, unique culture and friendly people, has a dark side that is not as vehemently talked about as some of the manufactured political controversies that have dominated headlines over the years.
Politicians and their shenanigans are not on the same level as hardcore criminals and their shenanigans and therefore the energy that too many of us disburse on the former should be redirected to the latter because the results of the shenanigans of both groups, whilst not being the same, are both negative in the extreme.
The Marchand drive-by shooting last Sunday and the current political controversy over Minister Hilaire’s vehicle, though it is a matter of serious concern, particularly from an ethical standpoint, are classic examples of the aforementioned.
The lives of three young people were snuffed out in the blink of an eye last Sunday evening in Marchand. And two more were hospitalised, traumatised beyond their understanding; never in their wildest imagination would they have known that just being where they were, there for whatever purpose, would have landed them where they are today.
With the country registering 70 homicides so far for the year, should not most of our energies be expended devising ways and means of stopping this madness? Today it is someone else who is grieving, a victim or relative of a victim of gun violence, tomorrow it could be us!
And so let us not extinguish this tiny flame of change we spoke of earlier as it could be the conviction we all need that this time around, we will do everything in our power to prevent these tragedies from happening in our country. And we are not only speaking here of drive-by shootings but also of the frequent gun-related robberies all over the country, gang-related shootings and incidents of death-by-guns which have increased the homicide numbers for this year.
We call on the political directorate (both parties) and the citizens of this country to stop underinvesting in prevention approaches that work in making criminals have second thoughts before going on their killing sprees. Lives can be saved but are we willing to fight the criminals? Citizens doing nothing to help put criminals behind bars will not stop the killings.
Make no mistake, the Marchand Sunday night drive-by is a major tragedy therefore the discourse on it cannot and should not be the same as have always been with other gun-related incidences.
Let us feed this tiny flame of hope by putting in place the political will to address the underlying contributors to gun violence and the infrastructure necessary to ensure effectiveness.
It is time we fight back. Vengeance is no solution. Our fight must be to give the potential gangsters a reason to give up their short-lived moment of infamy and contribute to the advance of our society. In a word, we must sell the concept of a fulfilling and rewarding future.