Do we need guns in paradise?

By The Editorial Board 02 October 2023, 10:00AM

Imagine the horror on the faces of the people who were present at the Hotel Millenia on Friday night when a drunk woman discharged her firearm, luckily it was not aimed at anyone otherwise a life could have been possibly lost.

For a small Pacific nation with a population of 200,000, does Samoa really need guns? In all the drug raids that have been carried out in the last year, there is a common finding by the police and that is firearms, most of them illegal.

Samoa’s gun laws need to be reviewed and there should be changes to further reduce the number of firearms in the country. When the police conducted the latest raids, some of them were armed because they knew about the prevalence of firearms in such situations.

Once bitten twice shy. How can one forget the 2012 incident when police were involved in a shootout at Faleatiu when three officers were injured? Luckily the bill to have police officers carry firearms was not pushed through otherwise we would have become a gun nation.

In August of this year, a man was shot dead in Fa’atoia. This was a premeditated crime and on Christmas Eve last year, a young policewoman Mele Segisolo was shot by her partner.

Guns portray the society as unsafe and one of having a high crime rate. That is something not needed especially when Samoa is being promoted as a tourist destination. People travel to places where they feel safe and with guns out in the open, this will not be able to happen.

In 2003, Samoa Police held records of 10,897 shotguns and 6,948 rifles in its firearm registry, for a total of 17,845 privately held, registered guns. That was 20 years ago. During the gun amnesty in 2016, 500 illegal firearms were confiscated by the police and destroyed.

According to research done by the University of Sydney, in Samoa, private ownership of shotguns and rifles is restricted, handguns are prohibited, and all applicants for a firearm licence must show a genuine reason for ownership.

With 11,995 licensed gun owners and 17,845 registered firearms, Samoa has 8.2 lawfully held private guns per 100 population. Among 18 island nations of the Pacific, this ranks Samoa with Niue and New Caledonia as having the highest civilian gun ownership rates. Although Samoan police do not carry firearms and the nation has no military, state armoury are estimated to hold 200 small arms.

These numbers are more than a decade old and it is believed that the number of guns in Samoa now are even more. The authorities need to work together and look at reducing the number of firearms in the country.

There is an increase in meth in Samoa and there is a relationship between the drugs and the use of guns especially when rival dealers or gangs are involved. That is clearly happening in New Zealand. Police have already stated that gangs in New Zealand were looking to set up chapters in Samoa.

Last thing Samoa needs is another person walking into a bar or a school with a gun and opening fire. Samoa does not need incidents like drive-by shootings. As it is, one fight at a drinking party is resulting in a series of fights among young men from different villages, what if these youths had access to guns.

Studies have shown that if there are more guns then it equates to more gun related crime including homicide.

In a scholarly review of the relationship between gun prevalence and homicide almost 20 years ago, Harvard researchers concluded that available evidence supports the hypothesis that greater numbers of guns corresponds to higher rates of homicide.

In the years since, the evidence has strengthened at every level of analysis. Further, the hypothesis that more guns equates to more deaths has been supported using many different ways of measuring gun availability and access.

First, having a gun in the home increases the risk that a person will be the victim of a homicide with a gun or commit suicide with a gun. This is true regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home.

Put simply, if there is a gun in the home, it is easier for a person to pick it up and use it against a family member, intimate partner, or associate in the midst of a conflict. Similarly, people are more able to attempt suicide during a moment of crisis if a firearm is accessible in the home. Suicides are also far more likely to be completed with a firearm than any other means.

Samoa needs to get stricter with its gun laws and there is a definite need to reduce the number of firearms in the nation. 

By The Editorial Board 02 October 2023, 10:00AM
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