Marie Curie, the first female Nobel Prize winner, said that “nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.” Gun crime frightens the public because we, or our children, could all be innocent victims while performing the simplest tasks, like stopping to buy bread during daylight hours. Or children having to huddle under desks whilst gunmen “shoot it up” outside the Rose Hill RC Primary School compound.
What did the elected officials say to convince the public that the crime problem is being addressed with urgency? Do they understand the problem? Moving the school is not a solution and the Education Minister’s immediate response amounted to nothing more informed than thinking aloud. The National Security Minister was just as clueless. He suggested that the warring parties posed no immediate danger to the school. He seemed not to understand that there should have been no gunfire and that any gunfire within the proximity of the school was a threat to the safety and security of all concerned.
Having failed to grasp the gravity of the “Rose Hill” incident, the minister seized the political opportunity to throw some mud in a passing reference to the FUL investigation, by noting that licenced firearms had also been used in criminal acts. The innuendo is that those granting gun licences and those receiving them, may not all be clean. To compound the situation, he noted that the TTPS had been supplied with everything they needed to combat crime. Really? If so, what is the reason for the underperformance?
Mr Hinds has served in the 5th, 6th 7th 8th 9th and 11th parliaments in opposition and in office, in addition to this current 12th Republican Parliament. As an MP, he played a supporting role in the office of the Attorney General, in Legal Affairs and in the Ministry of National Security before becoming the substantive Minister of National Security. He is an attorney and a former police officer. As an MP he represents a community with known “hot spots.” He ought not to be a novice, even if he sounds like one.
One would expect a more critical assessment given the crisis. What are the sociological insights? What accounts for the prevalence of gangs and their ability to control geographical areas? Responsibility and accountability demand a fuller explanation of the process and system changes that are being actioned to make the current approach to crime fighting more effective. There are gaps along the state security apparatus which cannot be amended by simply changing the Bail Bill or blaming the Opposition’s intransigence. Apart from repairing the CCTV system, what are the other improvements?
The importation of guns and ammunition must be stopped. The ballistic testing capabilities must be upgraded so gun testing can be completed in a much shorter time consistent with the demands of the justice system. The same applies to police disciplinary structures and investigation timelines. The obvious holes in Customs and Excise and the justice and legal system must be addressed. And awarding contracts to gangs in whatever forms (Colour Me Orange, URP, repainting HDC units, etc) must be eradicated and replaced with proper social programmes. As Madame Curie advised, to understand more gives one the capacity to address the unknown and reduce fear.