Power of the gun

By Raffique Shah
July 04, 2022

Raffique ShahWe are not the most crime-ridden country in the world, notwithstanding claims to that effect by organisations and individuals that manipulate raw data from dubious sources so that they can support whatever theory or argument their authors wish to pursue.

For example, there are academics and criminologists who rely on official police numbers that could be quite misleading. To support my argument, I ask: can the police or other government agency in many densely-populated, slum-infested countries and cities (think India, Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines…) accurately account for every living or dead soul in such human-jungles? Hell, in the comparatively minuscule Beetham Estate or Sea Lots in Trinidad and Tobago, people live and die and never appear on records, so wheel and come back if you expect me to buy “official” data as being accurate.

I accept that available numbers of homicides in this tiny country are most unacceptable, as, indeed, are police records of what they classify “serious crimes”. But if we are looking for the “sickest” society in the world, try America where deranged criminals commit unspeakable atrocities against other human beings. In the headquarters of capitalism and democracy, the most developed country, they randomly select schools and churches to attack, killing scores of innocents as if they were vermin. And last week, a truck driver stuffed 60-odd illegal migrants into a non-refrigerated container and watched them roast to death on a very hot day in San Antonio, Texas.

We Trinis, bad as we think we are, and savage as the criminals make themselves appear as they shoot to death two, three, four, because they cannot count past that number, pale by comparison with the cruel Americans, Mexicans, Colombians, the British and other sadists who calmly dispose of their victims in very unconventional ways.

The more recent statistics by agencies that store such data suggest Trinidad and Tobago ranks sixth on the murders chart, with firearms being the choice of weapon, and the death toll amounting to 38 per 100,000 per annum. Trinidad is under siege from petty criminals whose only power is the guns they hold in their hand.

I am not dismissing the sadists emerging and joining the ranks of criminals who have terrorised ordinary citizens for decades while they have multiplied, albeit not in huge numbers; their criminal activities are not confined to small pockets of towns and villages. In fact, because we are such a small country, the impact they have on us is larger than what is reality.

Therein lies a critical factor that has caused us to allow the criminals virtual free-reign. To the average new citizen, one man with one gun or, worse, three men with three guns appear to be an army to which the victims surrender without hesitation. Again, the power of the gun. The source of that power—where are these weapons coming from, and who is importing them—are questions that must be answered if we have any hope of rolling back crime.

The importers must be people of means since to purchase and ship guns from any country into ours and land them safely in the hands of the merchants of death is a costly exercise. Recently, I heard one radio commentator say criminals “rented” guns at $20,000 a day. For that to make any sense, the gun must bring the renter returns of five or ten times the rental fee. Their targets will hardly be ordinary people. Although, we become targets of opportunity as they seek to recover their “investments”. This probably explains why organised teams of criminals, maybe gangsters, have taken to robbing wholesale dealers in goods, especially expensive appliances, as reports have informed us.

Home invasions too invariably targeting people of considerable means, some of whom will have used the criminals’ services in their active money-laundering days. Well-planned robberies as referred to above can happen in any community, last for hours while the target and his family are tortured as the bandits seek to find the hidden millions of dollars they have.

En route to their main targets, bandits will pounce on any opportunity they encounter: a taxi operator, village shops, food outlets, and so on. Even children, who may be on the streets when the criminals are prowling, become easy targets. In these few short paragraphs, I have identified several layers of criminals: the gun importers, the hired or rented gunmen, soft targets.

Add to these, police officers who collaborate with the criminals, similar elements in the justice system, and politicians who by either turning a blind eye to what they know is taking place, or who receive political “donations” from the spoils of crime sprees, present us with a very sorry picture that depicts why T&T is ranked high in the global crime scene.

We need to “mash up” these vicious circles of gun-power.