Letters — 21 November 2014
Of the Firearms Act and a mother’s torment

Dear Editor,

At Justice’s door…

As I stood at the proverbial door, I very sheepishly began to knock. Behind the door was Justice. She must not have  heard my first knock, so I gathered myself and tried to stop my involuntary fidgeting and this time I mustered up the courage to give a more audible knock. Still, it was too discreet a knock. No answer; no sound. So, I thought to myself “Ahhhh, forget it!” thus I pounded on the door so much that the mahogany grains began to split. Finally, a faint and almost indistinct response of “Coming!” then, the door was opened.  If you’re going to knock… knock.

Draconian…

Consider the word “draconian” for a moment. In Belize, we tend to overuse certain words that sometimes their power is diminished. Surely however, the use of the dictionary has not evaded us. Therefore, just as a highlight for which the rest of my letter shall hinge upon. The New Oxford American Dictionary gives a very straightforward definition of the word “draconian”. It says: “(of laws or their application) excessively harsh and severe”. I like this definition because it just about sums up exactly what Belize’s Firearms Act is. I would go even further and state that it is grossly inhumane and oppressive. As the wise legal proverb goes “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Delving in…

As it is colloquially referred to, the so called “gun law” was implemented with the intention to deter crimes which involved unlicensed firearms and ammunition, such as murder and armed robbery. Harsh and severe penalties were put in place, such as 5 years imprisonment for each unlicensed firearm and 1 year imprisonment for each bullet or projectile used in a gun. Many Belizeans soon realized that what were supposed to be fair legal remedies, were actually a list of catch-all quick-fixes for an out of control crime that has, no doubt, hurt our nation’s social and economic reputation. Belizeans were soberly reminded with commercials on television that reminded us of the penalties. Remember this? “Bwai, if police come, ALL ah wi gwen da jail!” Wait, wait, wait… what? All of us are going to jail? Obviously that means that if someone places an unlicensed gun in my yard, my mom, my dad, my wife, her grandmother, my mother-in-law, and perhaps even my friend with a medical condition who came to visit – will ALL go to “piss-house” and then to prison for at least two weeks, MANDATORY, and unless we can somehow come up with the prescribed Supreme Court fee to apply for Supreme Court bail, we might more than likely spend months behind bars for a crime which we are not guilty of. Nonetheless, this is just an allegory.

The Battered Woman…

Here is a real story: The most recent incident was aired on Krem, Love TV and Channel 5 on November 17th in which a 41-year-old mother of five suddenly met a very tormenting ordeal. She and her children do not have any criminal record whatsoever. She was at her house on Dean Street on Friday when some police officers came to conduct a search. Of course, they ransacked the place in their usual militant fashion while this mother helplessly looked on in confusion. The authorities found nothing incriminating in her quaint bungalow abode, as she followed them around with her eyes as best she could have inside the house. Not that she had anything to hide but at that time, a sigh of relief was short-lived since a police officer from outside walked in and declared proudly that they had just found a gun in the backyard. Imagine yourself in that position of instant judgment. Talking becomes futile and only makes things worse. The police explained to her that she is under arrest and then go to her sons’ workplaces to arrest them as well. Yes, they are working men, and not the stereotypical embodiment of their immediate surroundings. The police taunted her by telling her that even her daughter, an honour student at a leading Catholic high-school in Belize City was going to be picked up. Needless to say, she is only a minor.

As the hours slowly passed by and the tragic drama of this ordeal unfolded — the pointed guns to the heads of those who would protest, the embarrassment at the high-school, and the stench of the holding cell now starting to become a little less unbearable, one might say at this point that things cannot possibly get any worse. But oh, ignorance only compounds the plague. Not even her lawyer could have helped her when this woman’s blood pressure shot to the roof and she began to foam at the mouth. Haggardness is an awful feeling and leaves one unrecognizable. Women might understand more than men that their “monthly” is a time to be extra hygienic, and yet, the police denied this woman’s basic need to take a bath each day. What demon-possessed individual can bear such torture is beyond me as a man. Inevitably, the woman ended up at the hospital after countless woeful petitions by her female lawyer. Her stay in the ward turned out to be like vinegar to the thirsting tongue, as she was sent back to the holding cell as soon as the examination was completed. The doctor confirmed that she was indeed on her monthly, and that she was infected, severely dehydrated, and was suffering from hypertension.Nonetheless, the evil protocol prevailed and she was returned back to the tiny holding cell, and thereafter she was remanded to the Hattieville Prison, where she currently is (still infected, still sick).

Justice…

If you think it affects only the household of the accused persons, think again. The woman’s elderly mother is bereaved as she searches for money in the void of her resources. The woman’s sisters cry out into the wilderness of jurisprudence as even the magistrate’s hands are tied, bound to crucify the innocent. The magistrate saw her haggard, worn-down discontent and deteriorating health, but could not do anything to truly help, despite her human inkling for common decency. Is this justice? Rhetorical question, Mr. Editor, for as far as we know, the pending amendments to this legislation, which members of the government have glorified as being the solution to the predicted problems they have created in the first place by virtue of this so called “gun law,” are only justice delayed; and you know what they say about that. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Therefore, I will continue pounding at the door of true justice and I urge all prudent Belizeans, not ‘the powers at be’, but Belizeans who ARE this country, to take up their rightful place in this nation to break down the door which impedes us from true justice. And when we are met with cynicism and doubt, we will remember the injustices of our present times, and use it to inspire us to unchain our boldness so that people like my relatives in nationhood who are being punished for a crime they did not contribute to can go about their daily lives unbuttered and unafraid to live in Belize.

Sincerely,

Richard Williams

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