‘TIS the season to be jolly, deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la, or so the song goes, but as a friend reminded me it’s also the season for something else – licensing firearms.
Before I go into how I feel about these instruments of potential mass destruction, let me be right up front with you. I don’t know a thing about guns. They simply don’t interest me like words do or emotions. It’s not that they are necessarily bad in and of themselves and I know they are only dangerous when in the wrong hands, but I simply don’t care about them. What made me tackle the subject this week that is so distant to any realm of interest or knowledge started with a phone call.
“Hi Di,” said the familiar voice who is often good for a story lead, “a short one for you today. Did you know that this is gun licensing season and you can license semi-automatic and automatic weapons in The Bahamas?”
Not ever having owned either of those, I did not know it was time to renew licenses for them nor would I know what they looked like but it did pique my curiosity and I recalled a letter I wrote to a friend in the US shortly after I moved here some 40 years ago.
“The Bahamas,” I wrote, “is such a peaceful place. The police are not armed, unless you consider those baseball bat like things called Billy clubs that some of them carry armaments. There is no army. Strangers hail each other and it took a while to understand that uncle was an endearment lavishing respect and friend status to someone who may or may not have any blood relation whatsoever.”
I asked the friend, waiting patiently at the other end of the phone line while I was silently remembering the letter about a non-violent Bahamas, why anyone would need an automatic weapon in The Bahamas. You can’t use it to kill sharks, they are protected, thank heavens. Do you need it to hunt pigeons or ducks? Isn’t that what a shotgun is for, the kind you pull the trigger, pump and fire, or in the semi-automatic version, pull once and get a few shots off and bring home dinner.
But an automatic weapon? In The Bahamas?
An AK-47, an AR-14, a Gatlin gun, a gas-operated assault rifle like those used by rebels and soldiers in places where corruption and civil unrest threaten to unseat governments, destroy lives and where those bearing such arms feel nothing when they burst into a house, building, community and slaughter women and children without remorse.
Why, oh why, would we ever permit automatic weapons in The Bahamas unless, of course, there were an underground business in them? What place would they possibly have, what purpose could they possibly serve in The Bahamas, a country dependent on tourism, an industry dependent on safety and security, where there is already a shameful record of more than 100 homicides involving guns per year for the last 10 years.
I could cite the statistics till you would be bored and toss this paper aside. I could compare our crime rates to those who have worse like Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and to the many who have far better like Antigua and Barbuda or Panama, less than half the crimes per 100,000 population of The Bahamas.
But the bottom line is this – if we are to achieve a more peaceful society, and a culture in which we are not afraid of the dark, the easiest thing to is rid the island of guns, especially those high calibre gas operated assault rifles that are weapons meant to kill. They have no other purpose but to take lives.
Putting a stop to the guns won’t end gang warfare, nor give kids who hang out on the block with little but trouble to look forward to a better chance at success, but it will give many of us and the visitors we depend upon an opportunity to live a safer life.
The problem with guns is not just that they are dangerous in and of themselves but that they creep into society as the norm and change the culture around them, as if they were a magnet toward a more violent temperament with less self-control and more reliance on a finger and a trigger.
For Christmas, how about a full-on gun amnesty programme with substantial monetary reward. I personally don’t care who had the automatic weapons and how the person turning them in got them. They should not be legal and getting them off the street is a start. Then, it really can be season to license the guns for hunting or for certain businesspeople who need to protect themselves, obviously for law enforcement and the rest of us can wake up singing ‘Tis the season to be jolly’ without concern that it is the season for licensing deadly weapons meant to kill.
A week to remember two good men in media
The world of journalism is like a family, connected, no matter how far apart we are or where we are in the world searching for the right words to tell the important story. This week we remember two men who were part of that family, both of whom left us in the past year, untimely deaths leaving the media houses and the public they serve poorer for their absence.
On Monday, we mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Tribune managing editor Eugene Duffy, one of the toughest, hardest working journalists ever to hit The Bahamas. Gene sniffed a story, a lie, a wrong move like a hungry dog sniffs a steak and he never let go until he got to the meat. On December 7 we celebrate the life of Steve Haughey who died suddenly at age 59, leaving an emptiness in the halls of The Nassau Guardian and a sense of loss among all those in the world of media where he had served print and electronic publishers with quiet dignity and friendship as he managed the financial side of business. We remember them both with fondness and with gratitude.