Crawford wants Gov’t to lobby US Black Caucus to stem gun flow to Ja Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Opposition Senator Damion Crawford wants the influential Congressional Black Caucus in the US to lobby that country’s Government on behalf of Jamaica to stem the flow of illegal guns into the island.

Crawford made the recommendation as the Senate last Friday debated and passed the much-anticipated Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act 2022 with 17 amendments.

It was previously approved by the House of Representatives on September 7 and now goes to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen for his signature before being gazetted to become the law of the land.

In the US, the Congressional Black Caucus is made up of most African-American members of the US Congress. Its members wield tremendous power inside and outside Congress.

According to Crawford, Jamaica’s foreign policy and foreign interaction need to be reviewed.

“I am calling for the Black Caucus, in particular in the United States, to intervene and pressure…on behalf of countries,” said Crawford.

Noting that guns are not manufactured in Jamaica, he posited that the lobby could be with a view to at least have rules in place “so we can trace who bought [the guns] and sent them here”.

Earlier in his presentation, Crawford noted that more than 80 per cent of the murders committed in Jamaica each year are carried out with the use of a gun. He argued that the Black Lives Matter movement in the US cannot be for Americans only.

“We’re losing thousands of our people to weapons of destruction not bought here, not created here, not made here,” he pleaded.

And, Crawford expressed that the Congressional Black Caucus would be more influential in getting tangible results than any lobby mounted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness could achieve.

His fellow Opposition Senator, Donna Scott-Mottley, had earlier suggested that Holness lobby strongly on the part of Jamaica in this regard.

“I’m suggesting that the Government works through the persons who are more aligned to us based on certain realities, like the Black Caucus, to say to them, ‘Let us see what strategies can be used to increase the risk to those who are supplying the weapons to our society’,” Crawford told his Senate colleagues.

During his address at the 77th session of the United Nations in New York last Thursday, Prime Minister Holness called for an international “war on guns” to stem the flow of illegal weapons and the epidemic of murders in Jamaica.

“In the same way that a war on drugs is being prosecuted, in which we have been faithful partners in policing what comes through our waters or leaves our shores, there now needs to be a war on guns,” Holness declared.

The Jamaican prime minister called for pressure to be placed on international gun manufacturers to institute stronger measures to prevent the illegal flow of weapons into the hands of poor, marginalised youth in developing countries like Jamaica.

“In the same way there is concern about illegal drugs on the streets of the rich countries, there must be concern about guns on the streets of developing countries like Jamaica,” he argued.

Successive Jamaican prime ministers have lobbied various US governments to do more to address the flow of guns into the country and, despite promises from their North American neighbours to help, the situation remains.

Under the new Firearms Act, which replaces the 1967 law, individuals convicted of simple possession of a firearm will now face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years behind bars.

Punishment in the new legislation, which was first touted by Holness as he addressed the Jamaica Labour Party’s annual conference in November last year, goes all the way up to life imprisonment.

This includes persons convicted of stockpiling three or more prohibited weapons; trafficking in prohibited weapons; and the manufacture of such weapons. Persons convicted of these offences will be eligible for parole after 20 years.