Features — 26 July 2017 — by Colin Hyde
Are shotgun owners unfairly treated  by the law?

It was not the first time, the story of two friends running afoul of the Firearms Act, Chapter 143, Revised Edition 2000. Hopefully it is the last. It can be, if we made the effort to educate, inform farmers. Unfortunately, some people feel the best education is a cruel example. It was cruel, two friends going to jail for a licensed shotgun that was not very far from its owner.

In the story, David Estrada, the shotgun owner, went into the bushes a short time, for whatever. The police came upon his friend, Manuel de Jesus Gonzalez, on the roadside, with the gun beside him. Both men were taken in. It is not impossible that the two men were plotting to execute a foul deed. But if we follow the odds, that is unlikely.

We almost never hear of shotguns being used to carry out dangerous crimes. A shotgun is 3 to 4 feet long; it is difficult to conceal. They just aren’t designed for ulterior purposes. How often have you seen a shotgun being used in a cowboy movie, or by gangsters? Shotguns are designed for farm use. They are used by farmers to hunt game, and to protect farm animals and property.

Shotguns are not a gangster’s tool. Yet, they were included in the net cast by government authorities when they sought to take guns out of the hands of the lawless. And some innocent people got hurt.

On investigation, the gun law, as it pertains to us country folk and our shotguns, is really not that bad at all. The fee for a farmers’ shotgun license is really a token. It is $5 per year for a citizen of Belize. Non-citizens are charged $250 per year. That serves them right, for not getting their status. If Wong Hong Kim, away over there in Asia, and in jail too, could easily get his status fixed, then why haven’t they? Is it because some people feel they are better than us? Hn!

Section 3 (5) (f) of the gun law says: in the case of a Farmers Gun Licence, the applicant may, at the time of applying for the licence, request the names of immediate members of his family or farm workers to be included in the licence, and the Commissioner of Police may, if satisfied that such persons are not disqualified from holding a gun licence, include the names of such other persons in the licence, who may lawfully use the licensed firearm, and the list of such other persons may from time to time be amended by the Commissioner of Police at the request of the holder of the licence.

The law allows it, so it is advisable for every farmer to apply for their spouse and children to be licensed to use the shotgun. The section quoted above says, “at the time of applying”. Off the top that does not include “relicensing”, the once yearly $5 payment to the GoB. So we may need some lenience here, allow for a farmer who failed to get all his family signed up, to do so.

7 (1) (a) says that no baby or other person under the age of 16 can hold a license. So, if no licensed person is at home, the shotgun should be in a locked room, or locked chest. This gun law covers shotgun cartridges too. Those too must be held in a place where no person who doesn’t have a license can get them.

After my first reading of this law, it is my belief that we can live with it. Innocent people would not have gone to jail if the authorities had made the effort to give people in the countryside the full sense of the law. But maybe the law enforcers are not entirely to blame. The DAVCO (District Association of Village Councils), and the NAVCO (National Association of Village Councils), should have made/should make it their business to inform/remind farmers so they don’t contravene. It is the duty of leaders to take care of the people in their jurisdictions.

2 charge for the officer
News reporter. You’re the young lady who had the baby in jail?
Young Lady. Yes, sir.

News reporter. And you came to tell us about the full horror of your experience?
Young Lady. Yes, sir.

News reporter. And to explain to us about the charges you are bringing. I understand you have two.
Young Lady. Yes, sir.

News reporter. Ok, get on with this story. Begin from the beginning.
Young Lady. I get arrested for weed an….

News reporter. Wait, wait, wait. You were arrested for weed? And you were pregnant?
Young Lady. Yes, sir. But it’s not what you think, sir. I was about to tell you, sir, that I was selling it.

News reporter. Oh. My apologies. Go on with your story.
Young Lady. Yes, sir. They take me to Racoon and lock me in a cell. I explain to the police lady—she new—first time I sih she—I explain to her that I was near term with mi baby. She tell me to stop talk fool. She tell me that I eat tu much. No matter how hard I try to explain, she just laugh and tell me about my “need to go on a diet.” Well, sometime in the night I had pain. I scream out fu help.

News reporter. And what happened?
Young Lady. The police woman holler back: Look, I di try kech some sleep. If yu know what good for you, u will stop make noise. You have a wife, Mr. Reporter?

News reporter. No. Why yu ask?
Young Lady. Maybe she would have told yu about the pain, and so you would understand.

News reporter. But a female officer would.
Young Lady. She would, if she believed I was pregnant. Remember she tell me that I just di carry too much weight. Anyway, I try fu hold it down, but the next pain that hit mi was too much. I had to yell out. The female officer holler at mi again. She seh, Maybe yu never understand mi. Well I yooz tu play softball, yer. Three strikes and you will get the sense. Baal one more time and I will give you something to scream for. Well I realize that I couldn’t make no sense out of her so I set out to try and take care of my baby. I take off my jacket and spread it on the floor. I bayr the pain as best I could, without making a sound, ‘til the baby baan. When the baby baan, the baby baal. The lady officer seh: Da who bring wahn puss into the station? I tell her, it is my baby, yu hear, Miss. She seh, I tell you already, if yu mek noise I will come and give yu something to mek noise for. Just then, mi baby baal again. The lady officer seh, Okay, da so yu want it; da soh yu will get it. Just mek I grab this tambran whip. Well the upstartness fly up eena mi, I get really angry, an I seh, Yu could please bring the kyat o’ nine tu. Well that really get she bex. I neva believe police woman officer could kos soh.

News reporter. What happened when she see the baby?
Young Lady. Well Mister, she change, change. It look like she have midwife training. She immediately put on some water on their stove to boil. I get fresh blanket and pillow. I get a cot. She come in and tie the baby navel string and cut the cord an clean up the baby. Then she give me a towel and soap and show me to the bathroom to go an bathe. When I come back she have the baby well wrap up, and hug up. Right then and there I decide I will ask she to be the gaddi.

News reporter. And what did she say?
Young Lady. Oh, she was so excited she want to help me pick name and religion.

News reporter. Sounds to me like an All’s well that ends well story.
Young Lady. Well it’s not, sir.

News reporter. You mean fu tell me that after all that change of heart you still want to put this police lady in the news?
Young Lady. Not she, sir.

News reporter. If not she, who?
Young Lady. The female officer explain to me that she didn’t have the power to release mi, that we had to wait a couple hours till her senior officer come. I didn’t mind. We had a good time chatting. When morning come, the senior officer come een. I could hear them talking from my cell. From his voice I could tell da who. Everybody know him. He’s a big, fat one. The kind Duggy Sing wanted to get off the force.

News reporter. Just since you mention that name—you know he’s a fraud. Promised the people to get marijuana legalized. Hrr, I’m sorry I wasted my breath. Go on with your story, young lady.
Young Lady. The woman police officer brought the man officer to the back to introduce us. Oh, she was all excited. When they were coming down the corridor I heard her explaining to him about the baby, and how I should be released immediately so I could get attention for the baby at the clinic. I was all excited too, especially with the praspects of getting out of that hell hole.

News reporter. You mean you didn’t get out? I mean, not right away?
Young Lady. No sir. I had on my best smiley face. And he was smiling too. But when hihn see who it was, that da me, his face drap. Hihn baal out: What? You deh ya again? And then hihn look on the police woman officer and said, Da fu she baby you di get all excited about? My dear, don’t bother yuself—like mother, like child. Nine chances out a ten that one will be jos another jail bod.

News reporter. That sanava noh mek a seh the word.
Young Lady. Well I said the word. I said plenty words. Hihn put another charge on me, on top of the weed—indecent language. I had to wait a whole two more hours before I could get out of jail. That’s why I charge them with delaying medical attention.

News reporter. You said you had two charges. Delaying medical attention—and what?
Young Lady. Putting bad mouth on my baby.

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Eden Cruz

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