A positive step towards the elimination of gun violence

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 January 2016, 12:00AM

Apart from the environmental impact of dumping the crushed skulls of guns in the deep blue sea, we’ve got to admire the efforts by the Police and their partners to make Samoa safer. 

It’s a job that must be acknowledged and thanked by everyone.

We’re talking about the latest step in the fight to eliminate gun violence in Samoa, which saw more than 500 firearms crushed, loaded onto the Police boat, and dumped in the ocean on Wednesday.

The weapons – illegal and unregistered - were collected as part of a two-month Police Amnesty programme, which has been hailed a huge success.

 “Our overarching goal is to reduce incidents of gun violence in our country,” said Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil. 

Well with the demolition of more than 500 guns, it’s a hugely positive step, one we should all be extremely grateful for.

At this point though it’s important to remember the phrase that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. In a country like Samoa where conflicts and disputes should be resolved through dialogue, ava fatafata and love, there is no need for any guns.

But that’s not the case and most of us know that. If anything, the amnesty has only proven once more the amount of guns – including highly powerful and illegal weapons - that exist out there. 

Here’s the thing; it’s probably safe to say that the amount of guns destroyed by the Police this week is only a fraction of the problem. Which is a scary thought.

Ladies and gentlemen, the result of having guns in the community have been devastating.  Over the years, we’ve seen countless unnecessary deaths all across the country as a result of incidents involving firearms.

For a small country with the population of just over 180,000 people, the statistics are frightening. But that just goes to show the extent of the problem.

Here in Samoa, we know that guns are relatively easy to access.

So much so you see people walking on the side of the road with rifles as if it’s no big deal. I know that for most of the time, they are meant to be used to slaughter sows and cows. Still, the sight of bare-chested men strolling around with rifles on their shoulders is an uncomfortable one.

We say this for two reasons.

First, most people who use guns in this country have never had any formal training on gun safety. They only know how to point and pull the trigger. Let everyone be reminded here and now that guns are lethal. They are not toys.

Second, why are people allowed to walk around the villages brandishing these deadly weapons as if its no big deal? 

Hasn’t anybody in this country heard of the word accident?

Accidents do happen from time to time. The problem for Samoa is that they’re happening too frequently. 

As they do, precious lives are being wasted as a result.

And that is the point. Would these accidents, incidents happen if there were no guns at all? 

On Wednesday, Commissioner Fuiava brandished several powerful weapons – including an AK 47 similar to the ones used in the Paris terrorist attack recently – and made a couple of vital points.

Firstly he wondered what these guns were doing in Samoa.

Secondly, he posed the question of how they were brought into Samoa.

If our opinion were sought, the answers would be quite simple. To the first point, such powerful weapons should never have been brought anywhere near this country. There is no need for them unless someone is planning to start a war somewhere.

As for the Commissioner’s second point, there are a couple of possible scenarios. One involves Customs failing to detect them at the border. 

The second scenario is the possibility that someone in authority allowed these guns into the country knowingly. 

In that case, we must be extremely worried. 

We say this because we don’t know how many other similar weapons are out there. And imagine them ending up in the wrong hands?

Incidentally, for the past few months, several Police raids have been uncovering powerful guns, bullets and drugs. This is a deadly combination. Something everyone must work together to ensure it ends right here, right now.

Ladies and gentlemen, we repeat; those who live  by the sword will die by the sword. Unless we get rid of all these guns that are not necessary in Samoa, we will continue to lose precious lives as a result.

But there is hope. Judging from the outcome of the Police Amnesty, which ended on Wednesday, there is a genuine desire among a section of the community to make Samoa safer. But there is more that needs to be done. 

So let’s keep the momentum moving. Have a wonderful Friday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 January 2016, 12:00AM

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