Every civilized country in the world has laws regarding firearm possession, and Belize is no exception. It is quite easy and reasonable to think that clamping down tightly on firearms will reduce crime. Since the mid-December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the US Government is strongly looking at very strict gun control laws. The Government passes laws banning various types of firearms and “bullet-proof” vests. People celebrate.

Then something interesting happens: crime rates go up instead of down! Then the Government is pressed to do something else, to pass more laws. Things still don’t improve. What is going on?

Criminals use firearms to commit armed robberies, rape, and murder innocent civilians. Criminals are already breaking various laws. They are not afraid to possess and use an illegal firearm. Hanging. A life sentence. Fifty years. Ten years. It doesn’t matter to the criminals. If the deterrents on the law books don’t stop the criminals from robbing, raping, and murdering, they won’t stop them from possessing guns illegally either.

Who do the laws stop from owning guns? Law-abiding citizens. International studies have shown this. Smaller studies in the USA have shown this also. States in the US which are big “Second Amendment” (i.e.: the right to bear arms, as stated in the second amendment to the US Constitution) states, typically have lower crime rates than other states which prefer more legislation.

The risk of a little extra jail time on top of whatever they are facing for more violent crimes (gun possession vs murder, for example), deters no criminal from owning a small arsenal. Now, if law-abiding citizens are free to own guns, and encouraged to learn how to use a firearm properly, that will instill fear in the criminals. Think like a criminal contemplating a B&E for a minute: What would scare you more, the possibility of maybe getting caught and doing some time (with bed and food provided for by the Government), or the possibility that the homeowner will shoot you dead in your tracks the minute you break into their home? Which would scare you more?

You want a safer Belize? Scale back the firearms laws. Encourage law-abiding citizens to take firearm safety classes and to “carry.” Change the anti-bullet-proof-vest law from being universal to being “worn during the commission of a violent crime.” The laws need to be made to benefit honest business people and homeowners wanting to defend themselves rather than just being written to put something on the books.

The brave men and women who serve as police officers, soldiers, and in other branches of law enforcement or national defense are doing a good job. They are doing a good job, sometimes in spite of the tools at their disposal. However, they cannot be everywhere all the time. There are simply not enough brave men and women in uniform.

This is where lenient gun laws and trained law-abiding citizens come in. Citizens should have the right to arm themselves in a manner they see fit to defend themselves, their family, their business, and their property. This is where I advocate proper training for Mr. and Ms. John & Jane Q. Public. Proper training will mitigate the risk of fatal accidents.

Again, relax the gun control laws. Encourage proper firearms training. Remove or reduce the ban on body armor (bullet-proof vests) to allow law-abiding citizens to use them.

(Ed. NOTE: The writer requested anonymity. The views he expresses are not necessarily those of this newspaper, except for the fact that the gun laws are draconian and are not working.)

by George Charles for Amandala