It is not enough to just focus on the aftermath of the gun-related violence; there must also be something done to prevent it from happening in the first place.
That was the opinion of newly-appointed Minister of Energy and Business Lisa Cummins, who speaking on Wednesday when she introduced the Firearm Amendment Bill 2022 to the Senate.
“This Government is very clear that the only intervention cannot be a matter of legislation because when the legislation kicks in, and by the time the Barbados Police Service kicks in, it is in many instances after the fact,” she noted.
“While the state needs to show that it is not just serious, but extremely serious about dealing with things that happen after the fact, the state has to also go into preventative mode. That does not involve only the legislation, nor does it involve only the Barbados Police Service, that does have a community and a family relations role to play, but involves a holistic Government approach and the provision of social services.”
Cummins said it was on this basis that Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced the appointment of a Minister of State, not in any of the other agencies, but embedded in the Office of the Attorney General, “to work on the causal factors that lead to crime”.
She responded to the criticisms in public spaces about the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint Corey Lane to that role with responsibility for Crime Prevention on October 26, .
It was logical, the former diplomat explained, for the office which deals with the fruit of crime, to tackle the root of it.
“You have had so many people talk about our youth being in crisis, that our young men are in crisis, but yet when the Prime Minister appoints someone to ensure that they are able to deal with the causing factors, we are confused with why she would do a thing like that,” Cummins told the Upper Chamber.
“Why would she place it in the Attorney General’s Office that oftentimes deals with what happens after the fact when the law has to kick in, when the police have to kick in, when the penal system has to charge and sentence you for crimes which have been committed? What we are trying to do today is take a Barbados-centred approach, a people-centred approach.”
The Firearm Amendment Bill 2022 was piloted by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Dale Marshall in the House of Assembly on October 28 and he said it was aimed at sending a clear message to would-be criminals.
“A person who has been found guilty of a firearm offence shall on conviction on indictment, in the case of a first offence, be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than ten years and not more than 20. In the case of a second or subsequent offence, be sentenced to imprisonment for life or a lesser term not being 20 years,” the amendment said in part.
Consecutive sentences for multiple firearm offences and longer imprisonment upon conviction are among the measures that the Government is introducing to combat gun crime.
Last Thursday, acting Police Commissioner Erwin Boyce held a media conference to reassure the public that the Barbados Police Service would be taking a no-nonsense approach to crime.
Barbados has recorded 39 murders for the year so far and 30 of those were firearm related. Police say about 19 of those cases were solved and over 127 firearms were recovered this year. (JC)