Congresswoman says gun trafficking affecting USA too

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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CONGRESSWOMAN Yvette Clarke, who represents the Ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday stopped short of saying there is no solution to stem the flow of guns from the United States to Jamaica.

Highlighting that the fight is ongoing in the US Congress and other areas of Government, she stressed that efforts are being made to tighten the flow through ports and elsewhere.

Clarke was responding to a statement from a member of the audience at Tuesday's Kiwanis Club of New Kingston Luncheon Talk at Jamaica Pegasus hotel, in which the member urged her to do all that she can to influence the laws and policies pertaining to gun control in her jurisdiction.

“I work on the ports and one of our biggest problems is that in the United States, you have no restrictions or very few restrictions on purchase of firearms, and that is a terrible scourge on this society... I beg you, see what you can do on the local level because we in Jamaica are having a terrible time with the importation of firearms. I'm asking you, please, to use your platform to see how best laws can be curbed or, better, restricted,” the member said.

Clarke said, too, that there is an ongoing struggle over the proliferation of guns across the US.

“What is unique about our society is, for instance in a state like New York, we have extremely restrictive state laws. Licensing to carry a firearm is very difficult to attain, but there are parts of the country where guns are as common as microwaves. It's a part of their culture and what we are trying to do right now is have a debate around how we license, how we track, how we register firearms — things of that nature,” the second-generation political leader from Brooklyn said.

She added: “It's a national issue because each state has different laws and, unfortunately, what happens is that those who have weak laws impact those who have restrictive laws. The other side to it is the battle with special interests. There [are] special interests that are supporting gun manufacturers. Those gun manufacturers don't care [where guns go].”

One of the most divisive issues in American politics, the gun control debate has generated millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying on both sides, with gun rights advocates sharply outspending groups advocating gun control.

US news network CNBC, citing the Center for Responsive Politics, reported that since 1989, gun rights interests have given approximately US$41.9 million in direct spending to candidates, parties and outside spending groups. It also said that nearly 90 cents of every dollar of that money went to Republicans.

Most of the money has come from the US National Rifle Association, which has contributed nearly US$23 million in direct spending since 1989. During the 2016 election cycle, it put up another US$54.3 million in outside expenditures, up from US$27 million during the 2014 cycle. Other groups, including the National Association for Gun Rights, Gun Owners of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, have also spent millions promoting gun rights.

Clarke pointed out that gun trafficking was not exclusive to the region or the island, noting that the US, too, struggles with the issue.

“Jamaica is having a hard time with gun trafficking; we are having the same problem within the borders of the United States and a state like New York. Two weekends ago I went to the funeral of a young boy, and this is unfortunately very common in the United States — who was gunned down on the playground. A 16-year-old Nigerian immigrant gunned down by a 14-year-old. How does a 14-year-old even access a gun in a state that is restricted? It's gun trafficking; it's gun peddling.

“We are fighting it. We are hoping that we can get the political dynamic such that we can pass the best laws that we can to protect not only our nation, but those like Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean that, unfortunately, are besieged by the illegal arms trade,” Clarke stressed.

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