What value are firearms to society?
The firearm was invented as a weapon of war. Its sole purpose is to kill, maim, wound or seriously injure another human being. It has also become useful in the hunting of wild animals and has risen to a state of prominence in our social structures because of the power its possession is able to exert. But, alas, of what positive value is the firearm to society?
Let us consider our situation here in Trinidad and Tobago. Apart from the insurrection in 1990, there has never been an occasion when our country had to rely on the power of the gun to secure the lives and well-being of our citizens. We have never had to defend ourselves against a foreign country, or invasion of any type from any terrorist movement or threats to our democracy, all of which would have justified the use of firearms in our defence.
All we can show so far as the product of guns in our society is the tremendous destruction to human life through the abuse of the firearm. Not a single day goes by without someone losing their life through the gun. There is no evidence of economic development, no improvement in productivity, no cultural upliftment, no spiritual enlightenment and no enhancement of human endeavour, only the steady count of bullet-ridden bodies lying in the streets.
As weapons of war, guns should remain in the possession and control of the army, for the sole purpose of defending our nation in the event of war. As such, no private citizen should be allowed to own a firearm, and no business entity should be allowed to engage in the sale of guns and ammunition. Law enforcement and local security forces should also be disarmed as the objective is to remove firearms from the streets. If we control the trade, importation, possession and use of legal firearms, we would, by extension, control the number of firearms in use in the country and allow for more effective strategies to deal with the illegal ones.
Naturally, such a move would require a revolution of sorts since we have become so immersed in the gun culture that to imagine a policeman without a gun is unthinkable in today's reality. Our well-placed citizens would strenuously object to relinquishing their legal firearms, and quite a number of security companies would go out of business. Also, the question arises: do we have the political will to pass the legislation to outlaw firearms and set the stage for a gun-free society?
Of course, we can opt for things to continue as they are. Give our policemen more guns, even to take home after duty; arm our firemen and private security officers, every businessman and our fishermen for their journey out to sea. It may even become necessary to arm our teachers and other public servants since the threat to the security and well-being of our citizens is real and everyone is at risk.
I am willing to wager that already, well-placed citizens have armed their children and have instructed them in the use of weapons—for self-defence, of course. In our zeal to fight crime, we may see more as being better and, in this trend, we may evolve to a society where everyone has a gun.
But isn't this a regression to the days of the Wild West? As sober-minded citizens, I am sure we do not wish for our society to return to "Tombstone Territory" but rather to transcend this state of insensibility and create an environment where our children and theirs could live in peace and safety. Perhaps this may seem as wishful thinking, given the current realities and ease with which illegal guns are available.
But again, I ask the question: of what positive value is the firearm to society? Perhaps if we ponder on this, we may begin to encourage new initiatives in the fight against crime which would not involve bringing more guns onto the streets of Trinidad and Tobago.