Today’s Opinion 2: A very special experience

POSTED: 03/11/11 4:50 PM

We won’t reveal who made the remark, but it stuck after the Central Committee meeting. “This was a very special experience.”
And what was that all about?
Well, guess.
About the quality of the debate of course.
And who could blame such an avid observer?
To say that the level of debate was poor is an understatement for the history books. The impression that parliamentarians are concerned about having more guns on the island was almost as strong as that other impression – that hardly anybody had done his or her homework.
Let’s tune in to a random member of our esteemed parliament, United People’s Party’s MP Dr. Ruth Douglas, who had the following to say about Duncan’s gun decree (text verbatim and unedited): “I wanted to highlight about the accountability for ammunitions because you cannot really control the amount of bullets people buy or anything like that but there should be a type of registration or, if a crime happens for example in a particular neighborhood that this … it needs to have some sort of accountability that when a bullet is find in a particular area who does it belongs to. Because all these weapons are supposedly going to be registered. So if they are registered, there has to be something to measure them with. So three times a year when these folks go for shooting classes or whatever, are they going to be accountable for what they have? How will this be put in place so that we can feel safer or that people are just going around shooting birds, shooting this or the other and then they cannot really give account of what happened with their ammunition. I just wanted to know that.”
As far as the level of debate is concerned, we rest our case right here.
Though the concern about more firepower in the hands of ordinary citizens seemed to be genuine, not one parliamentarian questioned Minister Duncan about the idea to set the age limit for a gun license at 18, while Chief Commissioner De Witte had advised to set the limit at 21.
We want to do one better. Making it possible for teenagers to obtain a gun license is insane. Making it possible for youngsters barely into their twenties is not such a good idea either. If the minister is going to do this at all, then let’s set the bar at a sensible level and make the minimum age for owning a gun 25.
The main objection against Duncan’s plans remains obviously his intention to grant gun licenses that allow people to have their weapons at their disposal – meaning that they will have the right to carry their gun all day long, wherever they go.
But no parliamentarian touched on that aspect of the decree. Sure, the discussion is not over yet, but as time goes by, we figure that at least some parliamentarians will get to the bottom of this issue and consider all of its ramifications. If they don’t we are doomed to become the Caribbean version of Texas.
We maintain, and most parliamentarians agree with this that the gun decree will put more weapons on our streets. An extremely bad idea, especially because there are so many alternatives – and they are all better.
Obtaining a gun to defend yourself against hapless robbers is a bit like rushing to ACE to buy more buckets to catch the water from the tap you left open. No matter how many buckets you buy, that water will keep coming.
Likewise, arming the better-off part of the population will not improve anything. As Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos points out in his letter to the minister that the state’s failure to tackle the root causes of criminality will place a whole generation of young St. Maarteners either outside the community or into an early grave yard. (see related article on this page).

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