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Gun violence is a local, regional and international problem. Gun violence and gun-related crimes create serious developmental challenges in high-risk communities, including developed countries. Although many Caribbean countries have enacted laws to curb the levels of gun violence, rates of gun-related violence continue to rise. The lack of crime prevention programs and interventions have left the most vulnerable -women, children and young men – at high risk for violent crimes.
Felicia Browne, who is a human rights and peace ambassador for the region voices the urgent need for new initiatives:
“When women and youth are fatally shot with such brutality, it raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of our crime-related policies. No citizen can feel safe within areas which are ridden with crime and other gang-related activities. Gun-related crimes have been perpetrated for years in our nation’s capital, yet minimal efforts have been made to address this problem which impact schools, businesses and community institutions, not just high-risk neighbourhoods and groups.
“Having greater police presence on known violent street corners is only a small part of the solution, and can actually aggravate the problem if police are not properly trained and physiologically stable. It is therefore critical that communities are active participants in the development and implementation of new gun-control policies and programs. Citizens must be given an opportunity to address the issues that most affect them. We need to interview and bring into the process our youth and their families, specifically the ones who fear daily for the lives due to gun violence within their communities.
“On April 2, 2013 St. Lucia signed the landmark United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which regulates international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. This treaty will foster peace and security by putting a stop to destabilising arms flows to conflict regions. However, It is of grave concern that many countries including St. Lucia have not signed the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development.
“This initiative provides technical assistance to member states to manage gun control and violence and helps prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms. it will will also help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools. These types of international initiatives can become instrumental in setting effective policies for gun violence and gun control within our small nations.
“St Lucia and other regional states should sign on to all of these, as they can resources and personnel currently not available through existing programs. Gun violence is a serious harm against human life and freedom. We should do everything in our power to ensure that such the lives of our citizens are protected.”