Get tougher with gun laws

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -


IN RE­FER­RING to the out­come in the re­cently con­cluded Kha­jeel Mais mur­der trial, some­one in so­cial me­dia com­mented that “it should not be so easy to de­feat jus­tice”, a po­si­tion with which most would con­cur.

It is a no-brainer that foren­sic ev­i­dence from a firearm sus­pected to be the mur­der weapon can pro­foundly af­fect, ei­ther way, the out­come of a mur­der trial.

The ab­sence of such ev­i­dence can de­feat jus­tice, and the ease with which such ev­i­dence can be pre­vented from be­ing ob­tained and pre­sented for ex­am­i­na­tion in court con­sti­tute an aw­ful weak­ness in the jus­tice sys­tem.

If firearm foren­sic ev­i­dence had played a part in the Mais mur­der trial, even with the col­lapse of the ‘eye­wit­ness’ tes­ti­mony, the ac­cused’s walk­ing free would not have caused the wide­spread out­rage we wit­nessed. The out­come would be more palat­able.

Make no mis­take, the per­cep­tion of the pub­lic mat­ters. Con­fi­dence and trust in the jus­tice sys­tem are vi­tal for good or­der. How can this aw­ful weak­ness be elim­i­nated? Un­for­tu­nately, most gun homi­cides are com­mit­ted by gun­men with il­le­gal weapons, which sel­dom fall into the hands of law en­force­ment. But a li­censed firearm of in­ter­est in a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion shouldn’t so eas­ily es­cape scru­tiny by law en­force­ment.

In a mur­der case, what if, in­stead of the joke penalty of $1 mil­lion or one year im­pris­on­ment, there was an au­to­matic 25-year jail term (with no mon­e­tary al­ter­na­tive fine) for fail­ing to turn over a firearm deemed by the po­lice to be of in­ter­est in the case. (Note that even a gun which tests show is not the mur­der weapon can aid in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but first, you must be able to lay hands on the gun. “Dras­tic penalty,” some would say, but aren’t we deal­ing with mur­der? What’s more dras­tic than that?


What if the sug­ges­tion al­luded to be­came re­al­ity? If a gun owner knows that his or her gun is not the mur­der weapon, rather than go to jail for 25 years, the gun would be sur­ren­dered. When the gun owner knows that his or her gun is the mur­der weapon, that owner will opt to turn over the gun and gam­ble (if he or she is the ac­cused) on the out­come of the trial, know­ing that prov­ing the gun is the mur­der weapon is no proof that the ac­cused fired the gun at the scene of the mur­der or was even present at the mur­der scene.

A dras­tic penalty pro­vi­sion to ad­dress with­hold­ing a firearm of in­ter­est in a case of mur­der could vir­tu­ally en­sure the elim­i­na­tion of an aw­ful weak­ness in the jus­tice sys­tem and lead to firearm foren­sic ev­i­dence be­ing avail­able to the court, bring­ing or en­hanc­ing fair­ness to the con­duct of the trial. Fair­ness is akin to that high­est of ideals – jus­tice.

To but­tress the im­per­a­tive of get­ting hold of firearm(s) of in­ter­est in mur­der cases, the State should, ex­cept in the rarest of cir­cum­stances, never ac­cept a claim that the gun is lost or stolen af­ter the mur­der is com­mit­ted.

Tam­per­ing with a firearm of in­ter­est in a mur­der case to re­move DNA, fin­ger­prints, or gun­pow­der residue, or dam­ag­ing the bar­rel of the gun to al­ter its sig­na­ture should be de­terred with a 25-year jail term for per­son(s) in­volved.

Should the gun go miss­ing in po­lice cus­tody? You guessed it – 25 years for the guilty ones!

Clos­ing off routes of es­cape au­gurs well for jus­tice. PA­TRICK D. ROBIN­SON Kingston 6

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