Time to Find, Confiscate Unlicensed/Illegal Firearms in the country

Have we ever stopped to ask ourselves where the guns which are used in homicides and other criminal acts in this country are coming from, seeing that Saint Lucia is not a gun manufacturing country? To be more accurate, this country does not manufacture anything which is related, in any way, to a firearm, whatever the size, make or model.

Therefore, it stands to reason that the guns in Saint Lucia today, licensed and unlicensed, came from outside Saint Lucia. It also stands to reason that gun crimes in Saint Lucia are executed using unlicensed guns, as we have yet to hear through official channels, of licensed guns featuring in any of the recent gun-related mayhems plaguing Saint Lucia. Meanwhile, we have heard, oh so many times, of unlicensed guns being linked to certain criminal activities.

That being the case, the logical move by the authorities would be to clamp down hard on gun traffickers, to limit or eradicate unlicensed/illegal firearms from entering the country.

We want to believe that the authorities are doing just that. This week, during a routine Customs and Excise Department inspection of a barrel at Port Castries, two AR-15 rifles and a 9mmTaurus pistol were discovered. Also discovered were varying calibers of ammunition including 30 rounds of 5.56.

Two years ago, weapons and ammunition were discovered in a barrel at Port Castries, namely nine Glock pistols, three AK-47 rifles and approximately 400 rounds of ammunition, and Prime Minister Philip J Pierre, this week, announced plans to work with US authorities in seeking to curb the proliferation of illegal guns in the country.

The above indicates that while there has been some degree of success in confiscating illegal guns before they hit the streets, such successes are not enough, by large measure, in stopping the flow and proliferation of illegal guns in the country.

The sad reality is that the successes to date pales in the face of the frequency of gun-related incidents (most times resulting in the death of someone) ongoing in this country presently.

Is enough being done by the State to find and confiscate the illegal firearms which have already made it past our borders, and which no doubt, are the principal weapons used in shooting sprees across the country.

We are certain that the authorities are aware of what international organisations have been saying about Saint Lucia’s weakness in areas of border control such as our inability to secure control of every bay and inlet dotting our sea border from drug and gun traffickers.

According to the Global Organised Crime Index, “St. Lucia’s proximity to Martinique ensures that strong illicit trade routes are established between the two. These routes are well documented as part of the cocaine trade and suspected as facilitating arms trafficking as well. Allegedly, Venezuelan drug networks smuggle firearms into St. Lucia along with cocaine. The weapons are then used by local crime groups to secure their drug stockpiles. Alternatively, illegal arms shipments coming into St. Lucia from the US are exported to Martinique for onward transportation to mainland France.”

The Global Organised Crime Index also stated that “Mafia-style groups appear to be the most prevalent criminal actor type in St. Lucia. While international traffickers control drug routes, local gangs often provide services such as security and transport, for which they are paid in cash, arms or drugs. The latter feed domestic demand and contribute to increasing competition between different entities, which leads to violence, including homicide. Besides drug distribution, gangs are involved in robberies and extortion, and operate primarily in Castries, Gros Islet and Vieux Fort. Less organized gangs resembling criminal networks also feature heavily in the country. Similar to mafia-style structures in St. Lucia, criminal networks also engage in the drug trade, providing assistance to foreign traffickers.

“Although there are strong indications that corrupt officials facilitate criminal operations (including, for example some customs officers at the Castries port allegedly facilitating the import of cocaine and firearms on a semi-regular basis), there is no evidence of state-embedded actors working with crime organizations. St. Lucia is a transit country for drug trafficking, and as already emphasized, foreign actors control the drug routes, but collaborate with local criminal networks.”

We believe that the men and women in charge of citizens security are aware of all the above.  This is not news to them at all. Therefore, their problem may be in tracking those illegal guns, finding and confiscating them.

Aside from calling on the criminally minded to lay down their guns and deal with their issues by other means, the authorities must unleash all the resources at their disposal to tighten their borders, which we believe includes seeking foreign assistance to help manage the sea routes used by guns and drugs smugglers to smuggle contraband into the country.

The call we made in last week’s editorial for the authorities to fight fire with fire is the same call we are making today. One way of doing that is to focus on finding and confiscating as many unlicensed/illegal firearms in the country as possible. We believe this is achievable and its success would ensure that such firearms can no longer be used to terrorise the citizenry of beautiful Helen.

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