Dean Barrow’s “Miss Cleo” Gun Laws

August 25, 2008 at 2:11 am Leave a comment

Dean Barrow’s “Miss Cleo” Gun Laws
by Wendy Auxillou

…and we are also introducing the Firearms Amendment Bill which will allow for joint charging of persons if an illegal firearm or illegal ammunition is found on the premises owned or occupied by more than one person.” — Minister Carlos Perdomo, House of Representatives, April 2008

I would just like to comment that Clause 5 is seeking to broaden the scope of Section 35 to prohibit not only certain firearms and ammunition but also … bullet-proof vests…” — Minister Carlos Perdomo, House of Representatives, April 2008

Please permit me to share my little two cents worth on the Dean Barrow/Carlos Perdomo 2008 rendition of the Firearms Act that was recently made law. I call this law the “Miss Cleo Gun Law”, and I will soon tell you why.

First of all, though, please let me say that I keep being horrified that Prime Minister Barrow is so keen (and eager) to enact laws that are so draconian and abusive of law-abiding Belizeans in general, that I literally retch and seethe in anger and disgust. The theme of most of Mr. Barrow’s new crime laws appears to take the sacred legal doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty” and turn it topsy turvy until it is transformed into “guilty until proven innocent”. Why would anyone want to harass law abiding Belizeans? For what purposes?

Mr. Barrow is obviously a well schooled lawyer who previous to him become Prime Minister was considered one of the best legal minds in Belize. He is not exactly uneducated. So why is it that Mr. Barrow would want to draft these odious, abusive, draconian laws that his “palabras” say are meant to curb crime, but that even I, your ordinary Jane Public, a non-lawyer, knows will take no more criminals off the street than before, but will instead drag innocent law abiding Belizeans to the bottom of the barrel and make criminals out of them? What exactly is so pleasurable to Mr. Barrow and Mr. Perdomo about abusing ordinary law abiding Belizeans this way? The answer that comes to my mind is quite sinister, I will admit!

But I digress. Let me get back to that disgusting gun law (Firearms Act) now in effect.

The gun law (Firearms Act), as it was revised by the bright sparks Mr. Carlos Perdomo and Prime Minister Barrow, now makes it absolute that YOU, Joe and Jane Public, will go straight to jail … DIRECTLY to jail…no bail … if you happen to have the bad luck of simply being within a certain radius of an unlicensed gun discovered by the police, even if you did not know about the presence of the firearm. You could be a Good Samaritan taking a plate of rice and beans over to your needy neighbor, or even a kind neighbor offering your friends or family a ride home from work or school, and if the police come a-raiding and find an unlicensed gun either in the home where you are sitting chatting with the neighbor who you took the rice and beans to, or on the person who you gave a ride in your car to, you will go STRAIGHT to jail, no bail, no questions asked. Even though you knew nothing about the gun. You will still be sent to prison, straight to jail!

The way the law is written, even if your kid is a straight A student listening intently in class to a school lecture, and an unlicensed gun is discovered in the classroom (not an unlikely event in some schools these days), the entire class of students and the lecturer will go straight to jail, no bail, and no questions asked. Even though your straight A kid did nothing wrong and everything right. Even though the teacher did nothing wrong. That my friends, is the horror that the new Firearms Act is.

Recently we heard on the news of a Mayan woman, a UB student and mother to a breast feeding five month old child, being taken straight to jail, no bail, because the police raided the home where she was boarding and found an unlicensed gun. She is a boarder in someone else’s house who knew nothing of any gun on the premises. Despite her innocence, the woman, an educated university student, has had to bear the incredible indignity of having her character defamed to her peers, her fellow students and in the court of public opinion. Additionally, she now has to bear the added burden of having to scrounge up cash to pay a lawyer to defend her innocence. Thankfully, her lawyer was able to secure her release in the Supreme Court, but her troubles are far from over. As a condition of her release (remember this is an innocent woman being put through this hell), she was asked to suffer the additional indignity of having to report to the police station every Saturday. Her travel documents have also been taken away. Her crime? Innocently and without malice being inside a home which unknown to her contained an unlicensed firearm. Amazing! The law has now made this innocent law-abiding woman a criminal. Just like that.

This woman’s story is not the only one. Hers is probably just the most public one. In one of his columns Mr. Evan X Hyde also wrote of a young boy who was riding in a car with some friends, one of which, unknown to the boy, had an unlicensed firearm in his possession. Despite this young man’s innocence, all three occupants of the car were thrown in jail, no bail. When she found out, the child’s mother became hysterical, and rightfully so. I think if I were in her shoes I would become more than hysterical. I would want to put a serious hurting on the person(s) responsible for putting my child through that hell. And that is another way this stupid law makes criminals out of law abiding citizens. This particular boy’s crime? Doing what every single person his age is wont to do – be a normal youth hanging out with his friends, for which the law has now made him a criminal.

As you have probably noted by now, you literally need to be psychic to be able to see which one of your friends who you interact with on a daily basis, or which shop keeper into whose shop you go to buy every day, or even which friend who usually gives you a ride home from work, or even who is in the car of your friend who is giving you a ride home is carrying an unlicensed firearm. Even the person you stop to chat with on the street as routine, you need to be able to “read” if that person is carrying a firearm or not. Even the neighbor whose house you go to offer assistance to, you need to “read” the stats accurately before you step into the house. You get my drift? You absolutely cannot socialize with anyone anymore without putting yourself at risk of being sent to jail, no bail, for something you know nothing of. Unless you are psychic. Otherwise, how would you know who of the countless people you interact with daily to avoid? Unless you live your life inside locked up in your house day and night, you have no control and most of the time no knowledge of the actions of others. That is why I call the Barrow / Perdomo “gun” law the “Miss Cleo Gun Law”. If you are not psychic, you can go to jail, no bail, for nothing you did wrong, only for simply being a law-abiding citizen in the right place with (unknowing to you) the wrong company even though you were totally convinced it was good company. It is a shame, in my opinion, that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Security saw this draconian amendment to be a fitting law. I would like the Prime Minister and the Minister of Security both to spend a night or two or three in the Hattieville Ramada for no good reason and tell us how THEY like it.

As if that amendment is not offensive enough, the Minister of Security/Prime Minister have also passed a law outlawing bullet proof vests, referring to them as “gang paraphernalia”. Huh? Mr. Minister and Mr. Prime Minister, may I humbly suggest that bullet proof vests, rather than being outlawed, be made required and mandatory clothing in certain areas of Belize? That is much more logical and makes much more sense.

As to crime reduction, if only the police were incentivized to raid crack houses (of which there are many on practically every street corner) and to nab the big drug barons (as opposed to harassing people in the possession of one stick of weed or gun toting citizens who are simply trying to protect themselves since the government obviously can’t protect them) the country would be in much better shape. I am afraid the police have it all backwards when they go about arresting innocent citizens. I sincerely believe that move is sanctioned at the highest levels as a cheesy way to pad up the police “statistics”. Is there a reason why crack houses or drug barons are never raided? Inquiring minds would like to know. I have read the police press releases on a daily basis for many years and have yet to come across a single solitary police press release detailing a raid on a crack house or a drug baron. Why is that? Are they above the law?

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