The 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met at a crime summit over two days in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The summit started on Monday, April 17th, and saw roundtable discussions to solve the issue of violent gun crime in the region. The CARICOM leaders agreed on a plan to ban the use and smuggling of assault-style firearms in their countries. The ban will primarily target assault-style weapons manufactured in the United States.
“We declare a War on Guns to combat the illegal trade which provides the weapons that contribute significantly to crime and violence in our Region causing death, disabilities and compromising the safety of our citizens. We call on the United States of America to join the Caribbean in our War on Guns and urgently adopt and take action to stop the illegal exportation of firearms and ammunition into the Caribbean. We lament the disproportionate share of our national budgets that we are compelled to allocate to measures to address crime, violence, and national security as well as mental health and other health-related challenges, that directly result from the illegal exportation of guns to our region. We underscore our commitment to utilize all human, financial, and other resources to rid our Region of the scourge of illicit weapons. We reiterate that the Caribbean must be a Zone of Peace, which will allow us to achieve our goal of a secure, stable, and prosperous Community for all our citizens,” a statement from the CARICOM leaders said.
“Caricom heads have agreed today to take a decision to ban the use and presence of assault weapons in the civilian population of our nations,” Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Keith Rowley told the media in the aftermath of the summit. Rowley added that an effective solution to the gun problem would require the passing of legislation, with opposition parties in their respective countries encouraged to play a significant role in having these gun laws passed.
Several governments in the Caribbean have complained about the increase in gang violence that is exacerbated by the availability of powerful, assault-style firearms. Jamaica, Trinidad, The Bahamas, St Lucia, and Barbados are some of the countries that have complained about the availability of guns. Bahamian Prime Minister, and current CARICOM Chairperson, Phillip Davis informed the summit that 98.6% of the illicit firearms recovered in his country were traced to the U.S. In Haiti and Jamaica, 87.7% and 67% of the same category of weapons were discovered. According to Caribbean National Weekly, it was not revealed what percentage of the aforementioned recovered weapons were assault-style firearms. According to Davis, Jamaica had a homicide rate of 52.9 for every 100,000 inhabitants while the global average is 7.5 per 100,000.
CARICOM is determined to find a solution to the gun violence problem plaguing its countries. They have called for dialogue with U.S. President Joe Biden with regard to the proliferation of U.S. guns. Some members of CARICOM have expressed intentions of joining forces with Mexico to file lawsuits against American firearm manufacturers whose weapons are smuggled into their countries.