Self-defense is a human right, and in my eyes that includes the right to access the most common (and effective) means of self-defense: a gun. Even in the United States it can be difficult to actually do so, especially when we’ve got politicians like New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham out there pretending that the Constitution poses no barrier to stripping citizens of their inherent right to bear arms in self-defense, but we do a far better job of protecting that human right than most other countries.
Take the tiny Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, which has very restrictive gun control laws and one of the world’s highest homicide rates. As robberies and thefts are becoming more common, some Trindidadians are calling on the government to give up on its efforts to keep the citizenry disarmed and to start helping them protect themselves.
Farmers throughout the country should be granted firearm user’s licences (FULs) to protect their farms from praedial larceny, according to Couva North Member of Parliament Ravi Ratiram, who called on Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher to issue licensed firearms to those affected.
Speaking at yesterday’s United National Congress (UNC) press conference, Ratiram said the country should equip farmers with the necessary tools to protect their livelihoods and safeguard produce and livestock.
… “I call upon Commissioner Erla Christopher to issue licensed firearms to registered farmers through firearm user’s licences (FULs), granting them the power to safeguard their produce and livestock. This is not a plea, it’s a resounding demand for action, for change, and for justice…Commissioner Erla Christopher, the choice is yours—stand with our farmers or sit back and watch them fall victim to the criminal elements. The choice is clear, and the solution lies in your hand,” he said.
… “I spoke to one farmer who lost approximately nine head of cattle on his farm. We are talking about nearly $100,000. Farmers and fishermen have been asking for this type of relief where the Government cannot protect them, they are prepared to protect their families, their livelihoods, and properties…this is why we have issued these calls. This is something that came about in consulting with our farmers,” he said.
The member of parliament says that farmers are not only being targeted for their livestock and produce, but for their equipment as well. But while Ratiram wants the government to start issuing gun licenses to those in the agricultural sector, the head of one organization representing farmers says there’s no reason why the nation’s gun control laws should be relaxed solely for him and others who live and work on farms.
Shiraz Khan, president of the Trinidad Unified Farmers Association, told the Express yesterday that he agreed with the call but added that the country’s gun market should be opened so that anyone can purchase a registered firearm.
“If you want to do something for the country, give all of us arms. Let everyone have a gun and you will see how the crime will drop,” he said in a telephone interview.
Khan said his farm had suffered from serious larceny in July, having lost approximately $140,000 worth of animals.
The issue of theft from farmers, he said, was so frequent it had left many in fear and frustration and farmers had felt abandoned by the relevant authorities in dealing with the issue.
“Just recently, a farmer in Soogrim Trace, they held him up at gunpoint three weeks ago, took his heifer, spray cans and the little money he had. If I start telling you I would have to wait until tomorrow to finish…it is a regular thing. Just last year, a 70-year-old man was beaten by bandits and up to now they don’t know who did it. It is ridiculous how we live, like burglar proofing is jail just waiting for someone to come and kill us. We are just sitting ducks waiting to be picked on. We continue to suffer at the hands of these bandits. Our life has challenges every day to live and survive, to be able to produce something for the benefit of the public. It is a frightening situation,” he said.
If you want to legally own a gun in Trinidad and Tobago, you must first obtain one of those rarely-issued firearm user licenses, and that process is a bureaucratic nightmare.
According to the police Web site, any company, business group or individual 25 or over can apply for a firearm-user’s licence. First, you must get a provisional licence that authorises you to fire a gun at a specific shooting range for training purposes.Applicants must get a certificate of character from the Commissioner of Police not less than three months before the application date.
The provisional licence expires after two months but applicants can apply for another.Ali said provisional licence-holders must train and take an exam for a certificate of competence. They then go back to the CoP who determines whether to grant a full licence.The permit states what types of gun the holder is permitted to acquire and how much ammunition he can purchase.
It’s a system designed to thwart gun ownership for the vast majority of citizens, and in theory violations of the law can lead to years in prison, but as Ratiram and Khan both argue, enforcement is haphazard at best, and few criminals seem to fear the potential repercussions or even being caught in the first place. As a result, residents rightfully worry about having their belongings or their lives taken away, while many farmers are looking at their life’s work being undone in an evening by brazen thieves brandishing illicit guns of their own.
If gun control worked as its adherents insist it will, Trinidad and Tobago would be a gun-free paradise. Instead, it’s the sixth most violent country on the planet. Khan is right that if the average resident was able to purchase and possess a gun as easily as criminals are getting ahold of theirs, crime rates would likely drop, but in order for that to happen the ruling class has to reject decades of anti-gun ideology, and while Ratiram’s comments are a good start, there’s no sign that the ruling People’s National Movement is ready or willing to accept that the country’s gun control laws have been an abject failure at protecting the people or that it’s now time to start letting them protect themselves.