J’can Diaspora and US to have gun control talks

Sunday Observer reporter

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tighter screening of containers leaving the US for Jamaica will be among the topics for discussion when members of the Jamaican Diaspora meet with the US State Department in coming weeks.

Chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora US north-east Region Patrick Beckford said the group had been “quietly lobbying our politicians, congressmen and senators, especially for ex-raying the containers that come to Jamaica”.

“We have received a very positive response from them. In fact, when I go back and meet with the state department, that is one of the subjects that I will address,” he said.

He was speaking at the inaugural Observer Press Club forum, held at the newspaper’s head offices in Kingston on Thursday.

Police sources have said that all of the major gun finds have indicated that the weapons originated in the United States, where the Second Amendment to that country’s constitution gives citizens the right to bear arms. This has proven problematic for local authorities who spend millions trying to detect and seize illegal weapons shipped to the island.

Beckford, who noted that the second amendment was a “touchy issue”, said tighter screening is one of the few measures that can be used to stop the guns entering the island.

He, however, could not give a specific date for the meeting with the State Department, offering only that it was slated for either “next week or the week after”.

In April, Prime Minister Bruce Golding cited the shipment of guns from the United States as one of the main contributors to Jamaica’s growing crime problem, and said negotiations were underway to stem the problem.

“A resolution before the United Nations for an international convention to restrict the illegal trafficking in small arms is still the subject of negotiations.

“In the meanwhile, we intend to renew our efforts to strengthen bilateral co-operation with the US with a view to addressing the flow of illegal guns from the US to Jamaica with the same vigour that we seek to apply to the flow of illegal drugs from Jamaica to the US,” said Golding, during his contribution to the debate on the 2010 national budget.

But member of the Diaspora advisory board, David Mullings, while admitting that the US’ second amendment legislation contributes to the prevalence of illegal firearms in Jamaica, said it is not the prerogative of that country to curb the problem.

“We of the Diaspora will not be able to lobby the US to change their laws. What we need to focus on is what laws we can change in Jamaica,” he said.

“We need to figure out why people want guns, and how do we prevent them from getting the guns, and how do we make them afraid to even use the guns,” he said, adding that even if guns were prevented from entering Jamaica from the US, criminals would find alternative means of supply through Haiti and other countries.

Sylbourne Sydal, member of Facilitators for A Better Jamaica (FFBJ) in the United Kingdom, added that Jamaican authorities should look at shutting down the supply of bullets and not necessarily the influx of illegal guns, as a primary means of controlling gun crimes.

He also said more emphasis should be placed on reintegrating deportees to the island so they will not resort to crime as an option for survival.

Originally Appeared: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/J-can-Diaspora-and-US-to-have-gun-control-talks_7723600