By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
IN the wake of a weekend marred by serious gun violence, National Security Minister Marvin Dames has condemned the “growing prevalence of assault rifles” possessed by “young, misguided, and immature young men”.
However, Mr Dames insisted crime “numbers continue to trend downwards” - though he stressed this issue will not disappear “overnight” as officials are fighting “decades of neglect”.
His comments came as Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin criticised politicians for boasting about statistics, noting these figures “have no relevance and appear self-indulgent” when violence continues to plague the nation.
Meanwhile Democratic National Alliance Chairman Omar Smith lamented the “shockwaves of fear” the nation is experiencing, while calling on the government and general public alike to “pull our country together around common-sense solutions”.
Police said 14 people were shot around 12am Sunday morning during a birthday party in Montel Heights, however Public Hospitals Authority officials pegged the number of gunshot victims at 15. According to police, ten of the victims were female and four were minors — the youngest of which is just ten years old. Three others were said to have suffered injuries that were not gunshot related.
Up press time, there were no fatalities and according to Health Minister Dr Duane Sands, seven people remain in hospital in stable condition.
During a press conference held Sunday afternoon, Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said the target was a specific individual, not the general crowd.
On Friday afternoon, two men were shot and killed in the yard of a residence in Star Estates. This double homicide occurred less than 14 hours after a man was killed off Soldier Road shortly before 11pm on Thursday.
Mr Dames addressed these matters in a recent interview with The Tribune.
“(There) seems to be a growing prevalence of assault rifles in the hands of young, misguided, and immature young men who - all they know is they have a gun in their hands and if you pull the trigger it fires,” he said.
“They don’t think of anything else. (Sunday) morning was a typical example. They were hellbent on shooting an individual, individual ran into a crowd of other people, they continued firing. That is what we’re faced with.
“The double shooting, again: we have to get to a place in this country - the police are making significant inroads. (And) as I’ve said before, numbers continue to trend downwards but it doesn’t mean the problem is going to go away overnight. This is decades of neglect that we continue to experience.
“And so it’s going to take a goodly number of time for us to get back to a place where we need to be. From the enforcement side we’re making those inroads.”
In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Mrs Hanna Martin regretted the “shocking incident”, although she expressed gratitude it did not end with “much more serious results as well it could have, given the deadly nature of the assault, apparently with the use of a semi-automatic weapon”.
“This gratuitous violence has shaken a close-knit community and caused trauma, pain and suffering and has interrupted a community’s collective peace of mind,” she continued.
“It has highlighted the vulnerability of law abiding citizens to wanton violence in their own communities. Fear is now heightened. The time must now come for us to get at the root of this rapid decline in public safety.
“The statistics politicians like to boast of have no relevance and appear self-indulgent, when we continue to see this sustained level of violence in our country and the tragic fallout.
“We must look with honest and realistic eyes and face the dilemma of the Bahamian people with less political patting on the back.
“Guns are apparently readily accessible, potentially putting every one of us at risk.”
Noting the country has a “serious problem of violence”, Mrs Hanna Martin continued: “This is not about political trophies but about preservation of our shared way of life and the sustainable quality of life for our people”.
Mr Smith noted the DNA was “horrified” by Sunday’s shooting.
“While it would be inappropriate to speculate on the motives of the shooter, this incident has already sent shockwaves of fear that our beautiful country is descending into a dark place,” he said. “All of our nation’s stakeholders, be they members of the government or of the wider public, have a responsibility to pull our country together around common-sense solutions. Our safety depends on it.”
Mr Dames also spoke to the issue of fear as he cautioned the public to be wary of social media reports.
“There’s so much misinformation being fuelled by social media. And that too is driving the fear index up,” he said. “And so I want to caution everyone to make certain that if it’s not from an official website, not from an official ministry or official department like the Royal Bahamas Police Force - especially as it relates to crime - people should not be paying attention to it.
“And there are a lot of videos and text messages rambling all over the place. If people have information that they deem credible, then they should see to it that the police get a hold of it.”