The Second Amendment to the Constitution gives Americans the right to “bear arms.” This right has been persistently interpreted to mean that common-sense gun control laws are unconstitutional. So, in America there are repeated incidents of mass murder, which could have been avoided if weapons were harder to obtain.
This sad state of affairs has led to a never-ending debate in the United States. On the one side are “liberals” who want to restrict the availability of such dangerous weapons as armor-piercing assault rifles, and on the other side there are gun lovers and the commercial interests who profit from gun sales. The National Rifle Association provides a focus for the opponents of gun control, and spends millions lobbying politicians at all levels of government to block legislation that would address the widespread availability of firearms.
Here’s a recent news report that illustrates the extent of the NRA’s political influence:
“In the wake of the April 4 killings of three police officers in Stanton Heights, Pennsylvania, City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the General Assembly to allow municipalities to pass their own gun laws and to join the city in requiring that owners report loss or theft of guns.
“But Republican lawmaker Daryl Metcalfe is moving to deter local governments from taking such action. He has introduced legislation to make municipalities pay groups that successfully challenge local gun ordinances in court.
“He said his bill is meant to ‘financially deter and/or punish’ municipalities that ‘blatantly violate'” state law. The state code doesn’t let localities ‘”regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms.’ “
Conspicuously absent from the debate – at least, until recently – has been the impact of American gun laws on neighboring countries such as Mexico and Jamaica. Both countries are complaining about the bloodshed and crime resulting from a flood of firearms from America. And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has conceded that this is a major factor in the war currently raging between the drug cartels and the Mexican government. Secretary Clinton said that in many cases the drug cartels’ weapons are superior to those being used by Mexican government forces.
On the eve of the recent Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, Jamaica’s Ambassador to Washington, Anthony Johnson, called on the American government to stem the trafficking of small arms to Jamaica and other Caribbean territories. Ambassador Johnson pointed out that the flood of arms is linked to the trafficking of drugs through the region.
At the Summit, U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the plague of drug-related violence and pledged $30 million (US) towards strengthening security surveillance in the Caribbean. While this is an encouraging beginning, there’s a lot more to be done.
The United States is taking drastic steps to address the traffic of arms to Mexico, Jamaica and other countries. More resources are being committed to border inspections and American authorities are cracking down on illegal shipments of weapons abroad. But these measures will have limited effectiveness unless they are accompanied by controls on the sale of weapons in the United States.
Many of the weapons used in drug violence come from rogue dealers, but some are bought at gun shows and legitimate dealers by purchasers who transfer them to a third party – so-called “straw purchases.”
As long as assault rifles and other lethal weapons are freely available in the United States – at gun shows for example – neighboring countries such as Jamaica will remain at risk. The freedom to “bear arms” may be a matter of their Constitutional right to Americans, but to Jamaicans it is a matter of life and death.
RESPONSE TO LAST MONTH’S COLUMN:
In April, I wrote about my decision to decline my brother’s invitation to accompany him (cost-free!) on a trip back home to Jamaica. I said that I was reluctant to travel around the island – visiting old haunts and reviving old acquaintances – because of the reports of crime in the news media.
Two readers responded:
I am so sorry you allowed your fears to keep you from going on such a wonderful trip down memory lane with your Bro.!!! I don’t for a minute believe that Jamaica is as dangerous as some would have us believe. We know several people who live there in peace – O.K., windows are barred and there are lots of dogs in the yards, but is it any worse than some places in America, or Canada? The fear mongers were out in full force when we visited Israel some years ago, only to find that it was very safe and friendly. So let’s keep on “adventuring” – we only live once!!! Maybe next year??? – Faye
I was saddened to read your article ‘Reflections on a Trip Back Home That Almost Was’. I’m white British but visit Ja almost every year. Last year I was there for 13 weeks and travelled, by bicycle, all over. I base myself in a Kingston ghetto, on Mountain View Avenue. Starting in town I travelled to Ochi, Mo Bay, Negril, Black River, Mandeville, May Pen and back to Town. While in Black River I had a ride up to Malvern, via Southfield and Top Hill. I went to all-night street dances in a Kingston ghettos, took photographs in Trench Town, but never felt particularly endangered or intimidated. The year before I had a similar trip to Ja for 10 weeks.
Wrapping yourself up in cotton wool in Florida – is that really living? I certainly feel much more alive in Ja than I do in the UK. Some of my photographs taken in Jamaica, street dances, Trench Town and all, are at http://community.webshots.com/user/JAsoldier They are proof that I’m telling you is true.
If a white non-Jamaican pensioner can visit the way that I do, I’m sure you could using a hire car – you just won’t meet as many people as I do while you’re encased in a car!
My apologies for writing so much about myself, but I hope my personal experience of going to Jamaica for 20 years will cause you to reconsider. If you don’t return to Ja, with all of its faults, you are the one to lose out.
Best wishes, Steve (Jasoldier on tripadvisor.com)