August 04, 2002
By Raffique Shah
IF ever Police Commissioner Hilton Guy needed a reason for not granting firearm users' licenses to businessmen carte blanche, Wilbur "Willie" Balgobin provided him with it in a most graphic manner when the ice cream magnate paraded for the media following an alleged attempted kidnapping last week. Willie's story about how a man accosted his friend outside his home, brandishing a gun and shouting, "Ah come for yuh, Willie!" sounded like a mixture of a spaghetti Western spoof and an Orlando Nagassar "pappyshow".
According to Willie, he and a friend were about to leave his home to go to a nearby bar when he heard the shout and saw a man pointing a gun at his friend's head. At the time he was still in his driveway, presumably unnoticed by the assailant. Willie, who must have seen many Western movies in his teenage years, drew his firearm and, pointing it in the direction of the action, shouted: "Papa, I have gun, too, you know!" He said he then fired a shot "in the air", and the armed man ran off-a case of the hunter becoming the hunted. Later, as his friend looked at this "John Wayne" with undisguised admiration, Willie fired yet another shot in the air.
For starters, that would-be kidnapper must have been an amateur even by local standards. In almost every other case, there were at least two persons involved in holding up the victim and bundling him into a vehicle. Usually, there was a third person who drove the getaway vehicle. In this instance there was this lone assailant, and he did not even know what Willie looked like. Then, upon being challenged by the real Willie, he simply ran off, making no bid to use the man against whose head he held the gun as a shield. And so frightened was the attacker, he never fired off a single shot. He ran, and ran and ran...
The fact that both television stations had crews at Willie's Chaguanas home in short time also raises questions about who alerted them. Was it the police? Willie? His friend? However they got there, they managed to persuade the businessman to re-enact the drama, complete with gun! There was Willie posing like Lee Van Cleef, pointing the menacing weapon every which way as he related the story. He did not bother to explain how a shot he fired into the air happened to hit a nearby wall: and please, don't add insult to injury by telling me that happened as the bullet dropped back to earth!
Worse, if we believe Willie's story, he must have slept through many Westerns! He will have missed the scene in which a gunman came to kill Fernando Sancho (I believe-portrayed by Eli Wallach) as the latter was immersed in an old enamel bath. The gunman started to deliver what he thought was Eli's eulogy when the latter reached for his weapon, shot the man between the eyes, and said: "Senor, when you come to shoot, shoot-don't talk!" So all this "Papa, I have gun, too!" was so much bull. In the seconds he took to say that to the assailant, the man could have shot to death his friend (since the gun was being held against his head) or maybe fire a shot a Willie.
In other words, Willie's tale was one of a comedy of errors that could have turned tragic in milliseconds. And that's why it's dangerous to put guns in the hands of people solely on the grounds that they are businessmen who handle large sums of money, or that they fear being robbed or kidnapped. Guns are not toys, they are weapons that cause death and destruction. The first lesson one learns even before handling a gun is that you never point a weapon at someone, even in jest, whether or not it's loaded. When you do point a loaded gun at someone, it must be to fire off a shot, and, hopefully bring down your target, dead or wounded.
Somehow, though, the persons responsible for granting firearm licenses have given weapons to people purely on the basis on their standing in society, or if they had connections. Can any policeman explain how come a known alcoholic like Trevor "Burnt Boots" Smith had a licensed firearm? "Boots" is my friend, and if only for that reason I would have saved him from himself by making sure he did not even have a cutlass at hand! But because someone high up in the Police Service was Boots' friend, he was given a gun that he carried with him even as he was drunk beyond control. It was during one such binge that he ended up shooting his friend to death.
I have seen many other licensed firearm owners who are not only drunkards, but they are irresponsible in the extreme. Most of them have no idea how to use the weapons, and if they do, it's only to be able to load and fire the damn thing. I know of men who leave their guns in the glove compartments of their parked vehicles. Others leave the deadly weapons lying around their homes and several unexplained shootings have taken place because of this slackness. Yet others use their firearms to terrorise their families or neighbours-you know, the 'have gun, will shoot you' syndrome. And if Commissioner Guy does a proper investigation, he would find there are many old geezers who are barely alive, but who have guns in their possession.
It is easy to understand why many people, more so businessmen and the wealthy, would want licensed guns. After all, if the criminal elements in the society are armed-and believe me, they have some weapons that would send an old gun-hand like me back to infantry school-then why should potential victims be denied the right to carry weapons? That argument sounds reasonable. But they fail to realise that guns offer no solutions to the crime rate in any country. In the USA, most law abiding citizens own several guns; yet, gun-related crimes in the USA are as rampant as they are in Colombia or Russia. So while there is no harm in arming citizens who are capable of effectively using weapons, there are no guarantees that guns will solve the crime problem.
And Willie's theatrics-on-television did not help the local gun lobby. He showed how and why citizens who think they need guns should not have them. And many of those who currently carry arms should be disarmed-for their own safety.
Copyright © Raffique Shah