EDITORIAL: Taking the guns off our streets

THE news that The Bahamas is joining forces with other countries to take US firearm manufacturers to court is to some extent startling – but very welcome.

Here at The Tribune, we have counted the rising tide of murders over the years – and time and again, access to guns is a key part of that violence.

We do not make guns here in The Bahamas. There is no mystery over where the guns that are used in the murders that take place on our streets are coming from. The majority come having been brought into the country from the US.

When looked at by gun deaths compared to population size, The Bahamas ranks towards the top. In 2019, we ranked sixth in the world, with 21.52 gun deaths per 100,000 residents.

Mexico, the country that initiated the legal move against gun manufacturers, ranked tenth in that year, with 16.41 gun deaths per 100,000 residents.

There are significant numbers of gun deaths across the US too – not just shootings in crimes but a sizeable number of suicides with firearms.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Elsewhere in the world, in countries such as Japan, the UK, Australia and others, gun deaths are rare. The difference? Those countries have legislation to decrease the number of guns in circulation. Fewer guns, fewer deaths – it’s not rocket science.

That the US chooses collectively not to do more to clamp down on guns in order to prevent such deaths is one thing in regard to its own citizens – but it spills beyond the country’s borders to affect others. Not just ourselves. Not just Mexico. But across the region.

This lawsuit may be a forlorn hope – it has already been struck down in one court and we join the effort as it goes to appeal – but there is strength in standing together and saying no, we cannot simply accept this over and over, year after year, gun after gun and death after death.

The US does not seem to have the impetus to do more to stop gun violence. December marked the tenth anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shootings – and there have been many more school shootings since. If children being murdered with guns in schools isn’t enough to prompt change, then it is hard to know what will.

This lawsuit targets the manufacturers of the guns. It tries to press for greater controls over who the guns are sold to – to stop them falling into the hands of criminals, of smugglers.

It shouldn’t seem hard to convince someone that if a person is a known criminal, or there is strong evidence that they might supply guns illegally elsewhere, then they should not be sold a gun.

And if those guns are found – as they are too often – to have been used in criminal acts outside the US, including here on our streets, then should the makers be held accountable if they did not take measures to secure their distribution?

The US has the right to bear arms – but as American business magnate John D Rockefeller said, every right implies a responsibility.

Where then lies the responsibility for what is done with such weapons?

We applaud our government for standing up and saying no. We applaud those others who have joined with the Mexican government in its endeavour.

Will it succeed? Perhaps not. But it is long past time to press our neighbour to do more, and in doing so, to save lives. Win or lose, the court battle is worth fighting.