Friday, March 21, 2014

Commentary: Stop playing with guns!

Sometimes I have to wonder what on earth is happening in Trinidad and Tobago. The story below is evidence that something is terribly wrong.

From the Trinidad Express:

"A 14-year-old girl was shot and killed last night. And the bullet that took her life may have been accidentally discharged by a 15-year-old relative who was sitting next to her, playing with a gun.

"Murchannah Lavia, of Store Drive Extension, Petite Valley, died at the St James Medical Complex. Police were told that at around 8 p.m. Lavia was sitting outside her home reading a book, while the male relative sat next to her with the gun. Lavia, a pupil of the Providence Girls College, was shot once to the chest."

What on earth is a 15-year-old doing playing with a loaded gun? What is even more disturbing is that after 48 hours police can't find the weapon that the teen used. According to media reports he got it from a "person he knew" and was "flashing it about".

The newspaper didn't have details about the boy but shouldn't the authorities also be questioning his parents? How is it their son was able to acquire a loaded weapon and for what use? Parents have an obligation to supervise their children and they must be held accountable for children's behaviour.

At 15, this boy is no innocent angel but neither is he an adult so he falls somewhere in a gray area and chances are this tragedy might be written off as an unfortunate accident. 

But the reality is that this was most likely an illicit weapon, which explains its disappearance. And there appears to be very little being done to address that issue. I have some questions: Who was the friend? Why did he have the weapon? What was he and his friend planning? Where did it go? Where were the boy's parents? Why is so difficult for police to get answers and find the gun and its owner?

There is no plausible reason that could justify this level of carelessness.

Today a young girl is dead because of it. She was in the security of her home, not hanging out or liming in a so-called criminal hotspot.

There are strict rules about owning a gun legally and the acting commissioner of police, Stephen Williams, is on record as saying that quite apart from the stringent standards in issuing firearm users’ licences he would ensure there is zero tolerance for people who abused their licences. He has noted that the state adjusted the Firearm Act made in 2004 to deal with negligence. 

What happened in Petite Valley was a clear case of negligence so I trust the police would deal with it appropriately but whatever is done, the fact remains that negligence caused a young girl to die in the prime of her life and no sanctions or charges can bring her back.

Every day we hear of a level of violent behaviour from children and everybody is quick to blame the state. But what about parents? We seem to have forgotten that parents have a responsibility and that the schools alone cannot raise a child.

No responsible parents or community leaders should be content to hear that a child in primary school could slap a teacher several times for doing her job or knock down a teacher, sending her to hospital.

You could institute all manner of controls or even send the kids to boot camp as Keith Rowley has suggested. But the bottom line about deviant behaviour comes from the social environment, from our mass culture and from parents not accepting their responsibility to their children and the society.

This madness must stop. And corrective action begins in the home.

Jai Parasram - 21 March 2014

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai