US legislators introduce bill to counter trafficking of illegal guns to Caribbean

Caribbean nations have been asking the government of the United States (US) to make a concerted effort to quell the influx of illegal guns.

US Legislators address impacts of firearms on Caribbean region. (Credits: Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, Facebook)
US Legislators address impacts of firearms on Caribbean region. (Credits: Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, Facebook)

Caribbean nations have been asking the government of the United States (US) to make a concerted effort to quell the influx of illegal guns into their region for quite some time and the recent introduction of the Caribbean Arms Trafficking Causes Harm (CATCH) Act has reignited the conversation on both sides.

The introduction of the act which is one of many initiatives looking to deal with this growing problem, is being pushed by Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Senator Chris Murphy, and Senator Tim Kaine, amongst others.

In the Caribbean, the initiative has been received well in general, as Dr. Horace Chang, the Minister of National Security for Jamaica seemed pleased with this development and said that the act could be crucial in clamping down on gun violence in the Caribbean which has impacted communities in the region quite drastically.

The CATCH Act, as it is colloquially known, has not been passed yet but could place a tighter leash on the Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions of the Department of Justice, as annual reports on his prosecution activities will become the norm.

The reports will be comprehensive in every sense of the word and are expected to include the number, destination, method of transportation, ammunition and firearms accessories from any particular case.

This would also enable the authorities to pool information from law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels while also bringing the Department of Justice and international organisations such as CARICOM into the fray.

Transparency and accountability have been set as the most important tenants under the CATCH Act with the aim of stifling the flow of guns originating in the United States to the Caribbean.

Currently, this mechanism functions quite effectively, which has provided criminal elements in the Caribbean the opportunity to engage in gun violence far too easily.

One of the major reasons behind this shift is the situation in Haiti, a nation which has been ravaged by gangs and has been plunged into a state of crisis. The break down of the political, security and humanitarian apparatuses of the nation has been facilitated largely by the fact that American made guns are easily available to criminals, thus fuelling a crisis of epic proportions.

Saying that American guns have been one of the primary factors behind the collapse of law and order in Haiti would hardly be an exaggeration.

This is why the CATCH Act is being looked upon as a necessary step, since one of its salient features is that it will ensure its own complete implementation by the Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions, making it a self-propagating act in some ways.

The Draft Bill draws from information attained from Haiti, Antigua & Barbuda and Jamaica, which makes it abundantly clear that Florida is the primary source of these weapons.

US legislators used Haiti has an example to support the implementation of the CATCH Act and said that it is a must if the United States wishes to take a genuinely effective approach to handling the issue of illegal gun trafficking from the US to the Caribbean.

Dr. Jason McKay, a reputable criminologist and security expert, has seconded US legislators, revealing that he is optimistic that the act will manage to deal a severe blow to the trafficking of illegal weapons in the region, adding the following, “Now at least it brings some peace to what will happen to the persons who are exporting the guns here.

Remember there was a guy who had a whole shipment of guns that was caught in Jamaica that tied back to him. He got seven years. When the Americans decide to get serious with something, they give you 70 and 40 [years] and those types of sentences. That’s the type of approach we want.”