The apparent execution-style killing of a 20-year-old man on Back Street Monday night (see Tuesday paper) was a stark reminder of the dangerous proliferation of weapons in St. Maarten. While government’s new legal gun ownership policy has been long in coming, a considerable number of them are already in the possession of delinquents.
Actions of the past like amnesty campaigns to collect illicit firearms led to well-meaning citizens handing in mostly older ones than those currently common on the street. Thankfully there have not been a lot of local incidents with automatic assault rifles as often used in terrorist attacks abroad or mass shootings like the recent one in the US.
But although murders have been relatively low, every victim is one too many. Violent crime continues to be a serious concern for residents, not in the last place because of its potentially destructive impact on the tourism economy.
There is no quick-fix solution; however, stopping guns from illegally entering the country seems a good place to start. That’s easier said than done, with such a great number of bays, beaches and inlets, never mind the open border to the French side.
Regardless, the airport, including its freight operations, should always remain a target for frequent intensive checks in this sense -also for aviation safety reasons – and when it comes to sheer volume of goods certainly the harbour bears very close scrutiny. To accomplish the latter, continued investments in modern tools including container scanners that don’t hold up the flow of cargo yet make possible a reasonably comprehensive control on imports are essential.
It’s not just about buying equipment, but also involves training, certification, ample testing, etc., and will take some time. Providing all these creates a more effective deterrent in the process and thus discourages arms-smuggling.
If nothing else, the bigger the risk of getting caught the higher the price.