Time for an Assault Rifle ActSunday, July 12, 2020
The use of an assault rifle by a maniac in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America (USA) in 2017 led to the deaths of 59 people and the wounding of 413. The use of an assault rifle by a maniac at a high school in Parkland, Florida, USA in 2018 led to the deaths of 14 kids. On June 12, 2020, the use of an assault rifle by a maniac led to the wounding of one police officer and the deaths of three in St Catherine, Jamaica.
We did not need the above recent history lesson for us in Jamaica to realise the impact of assault rifles in the hands of the wrong people. We have felt their impact since they were first introduced to our country in the unacknowledged civil war of the 1970s.
We have had guns from the 1960s. They were primarily revolvers, but soon we graduated upwards to semi-automatic pistols. This was followed by the enforcer machine guns. Eventually, we went full tilt into the AK-47 rifles, the M-16s and the AR-15s.
We have had assault rifles in our society for so long that I think we have forgotten how deadly they are, both at close and long range.
How deadly? Consider the 5.56 round's ability to penetrate hard surfaces and body armour, its effectiveness up to a mile, and, of course, the automatic function that allows for bursts of shots with single pulls on the trigger.
Well, with the memory of one of the saddest days the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has ever had to cry through still burning through our nation's heart, I believe it is time to introduce an Assault Rifles Act.
This Act must be created with the intention of giving life sentences to people found in possession of assault rifles. This Act would speak to the possession of all guns that use 5.56 ammunition or similar calibre, or any guns that use ammunition with greater performance capabilities, such as the 50 calibre rifle.
Possession of 30 or more rounds of 5.56 ammunition should carry a similar sanction; the guns, after all, are useless without ammunition.
In fact, it is time we use laws to discourage the possession and importation of ammunition. There is still not enough emphasis on this by our courts.
There should also be mandatory double-digit sentences for full clips of ammunition. This will make the gunmen walk with fewer rounds and thus less capable of engaging the police in gun battles, especially with assault rifles.
Think about it, one man with one of these guns just killed three policemen and wounded one. Can you imagine 20 attacking a police station or our Parliament?
Importation of these weapons — and conspiracy to import — should also carry a sanction similar to that mentioned for possession. Some would say we are hardly giving out life sentences for murder. Well that should also change. But bear in mind that a man with a machine gun is capable of mass murder.
My proposal for this is two-pronged. Firstly, as we have seen, one gunman with one of these rifles shot four officers, killing three; but he destroyed hundreds of family members and thousands of memories not yet made.
Well, we don't have to wait until more lives are destroyed. No one has a gun like that for hunting in Jamaica! They have it for the purpose of killing people. Why wait for the bloodshed?
Once you catch them just 'lose them in the system'; convict and forget. We have a small piece of hell and an enamel bucket that they can occupy for the rest of their life. So let us call this the 'catch, contain and dash weh prong'.
Secondly, I want the Act to serve as a preventative mechanism, so that gunmen will not want anything to do with these weapons. Why? Because I'm proposing no bail too. Yes, you read it right, once caught with it you go in, stay in, and never come out.
We need to stop worrying so much about the widow-makers and worry more about the victims.
Jamaica has lost touch with the victims and have become too damn worried about the villains.
The Americans used similar sentencing measures to what I am suggesting to fight the crack epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. It worked; crack as a drug is nowhere near what it was in use and distribution.
Long sentences are used in civilised, free societies to fight threats of national consequence. On the contrary, in controlled societies like China and Russia a bullet to the head is the main mechanism used in fighting such threats. I am not knocking their methods, but I have never been a fan of capital punishment.
It is fair to point out though that crime in controlled societies is far less. The problem with this is that often the Government itself becomes a threat to citizens' security. It is a peculiar balancing act. That is why it is important to use the courts as the preferred tool of control. In Jamaica this is even more relevant as our judges have the least blemished record of any group within the government. Let us put the power in their hands to rid us of this most destructive threat.
So let us be clear. I am not suggesting a long sentence for possession of an assault weapon, I am suggesting life; no parole, no pardon, just 'til death in the 'wuk' house.
Sounds extreme? It should. Superintendent Clunis's, Corporal Biggs' and Constable Hylton's deaths and the destruction of their families deserve extreme action.
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