The St. Vincent Times posted this editorial about the crisis:
Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has urged American government officials to take action against the ease with which firearms are imported into and exported from Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) nations.
Gonsalves lamented the proliferation of firearms made in the US and the violence connected to the illicit drug trade as the primary reasons for a high murder rate in several nations in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) on Monday, January 9th, on Star Radio’s Morning Scoop show.
Gonsalves refuted accusations that murders in SVG are related to rising frustration among Vincentians by pointing out that SVG has the fourth-lowest suicide rate in the world, currently standing at one per 100K.
Gonsalves’ concerns were also reported in The Voice, the United Kingdom’s African-Caribbean newspaper.
St Vincent's PM said illegal guns from the US are posing a "risk to the security and integrity of the civilian population, especially women, youth and adolescent" across the Caribbean
THE PRIME Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines has called on the United States to do more to stop illegal guns from being exported to The Caribbean.
Speaking on a radio programme PM Ralph Gonsalves said there is a link between the guns manufactured in the US, the illegal drug trade and the high rate of murders in some Caribbean and Latin American countries.
“The United States of America had to do something about not having the easy access to guns and the easy exportation of guns. They have the resources to help us with that,” he said.
These concerns are not new, and also include the U.S. Virgin Islands, an American colony. In May 2022, Tim Padgett, Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, wrote:
In one recent FBI case, U.S. prosecutors indicted a Haitian-American in Florida for shipping high-caliber rifles and pistols to the 400 Mawozo gang, hiding them in barrels of clothes. The alleged smuggler boasted on WhatsApp that Haiti’s gangs are clever “snakes” who can “slither” to get what they need.
But guns are being trafficked out of Florida and the U.S. not just to Haiti but the rest of the Caribbean — especially Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's a key reason the USVI's gun homicide rate is almost nine times higher than that of the 50 U.S. states, and why it has the second-highest rate of guns brought across its borders of any U.S. state or territory. “The guns are coming in very creative ways from U.S. states like Florida and Texas and Georgia," said Alex Nguyen, research manager at the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco, who has authored a new report on alarming gun violence in U.S. territories.
It's legal to own assault weapons in Puerto Rico but not in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Either way, both places are being flooded with guns shipped there illegally — and the Giffords report concludes the biggest driver is gun trafficking from U.S. states like Florida, where gun purchasing laws are relatively lax.
The WRLN article references The Giffords Report, from former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ self-eponymous organization devoted to reducing gun violence. The report points directly to the mainland states of Texas, Georgia, and Florida as major sources of the smuggling problem.
Read the entire report here.
Gun violence has become all too common in Puerto Rico, where the firearm mortality rate was 1.7 times higher than that of the 50 states in 2018 (the last year for which data is available).10 The US Virgin Islands (USVI) also experience staggering levels of gun violence. In 2020, the archipelago11 saw a firearm homicide rate of 50 per 100,000,12 8.5 times the rate of the 50 states.13
Puerto Rico and the USVI are among two of the five permanently inhabited US territories, which also include the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and American Samoa. While Puerto Rico and the USVI see drastically high rates of gun violence, based on available data, the territories in the Pacific—Guam, CNMI, and American Samoa—seem to experience relatively low rates of gun violence.14
Puerto Rico and the USVI’s gun death rates outpace the rates of all 50 states, largely fueled by gun trafficking and the use of illegal firearms. In 2020, the USVI was the second leading importer of firearms recovered by law enforcement among all states and territories.15 In Puerto Rico, only 13% of firearms recovered by law enforcement in 2020 were sold there, whereas in the 50 states, on average, 66% of firearms recovered by law enforcement and traced by ATF were originally sold in that state.16
The problem of gun violence and gun trafficking in these places has long been neglected by politicians and advocates. This report attempts to shine a light on the growing gun violence epidemic in Puerto Rico and the USVI, and makes recommendations for how to address this crisis.
A Note on US Territories
Due to the historically colonial relationship between the federal government and the territories, some residents of these areas continue to refer to them as US colonies. Per guidance from the federal government, this report will use the term “territory” to describe all of these areas under US jurisdiction.17
In 2019, Azam Ahmed explored the impact of U.S. guns on violence in Jamaica for The New York Times.
In the United States, the dispute over guns focuses almost exclusively on the policies, consequences and constitutional rights of American citizens, often framed by the assertion “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” — that the reckless acts of a few should not dictate access for all.
But here in Jamaica, there is no such debate. Law enforcement officials, politicians and even gangsters on the street agree: It’s the abundance of guns, typically from the United States, that makes the country so deadly. And while the argument over gun control plays on a continual loop in the United States, Jamaicans say they are dying because of it — at a rate that is nine times the global average.
“Many people in the U.S. see gun control as a purely domestic issue,” said Anthony Clayton, the lead author of Jamaica’s 2014 National Security Policy. But America’s “long-suffering neighbors, whose citizens are being murdered by U.S. weapons, have a very different perspective.”
Here’s hoping that the debate over gun control here in the U.S. will be expanded to the discussion of how our weaponry is responsible for the deaths of thousands of our neighbors in the Caribbean and beyond.
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