But inside the Port-of-Spain Prison, inmates recently told me there is another element of this gun culture that most of us don’t realise is now in operation .
Inmates in the Port-of-Spain Prison were incensed when two secondary school students were recently pulled out of a car and shot to death in their school uniforms .
“No gang leader would order this,” 12 different inmates insisted .
“You don’t operate like that out there. There are rules – even in gangs – and gang leaders would never sanction that behaviour. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it,” they said, “and school and school uniforms would be a boundary.” These inmates say that a particular crime shows that crime is escalating to a whole new level because guns are far too prevalent in society .
“Guns are way too easy to get .
Anyone can get a gun now. Everybody has a gun and many of these youths with guns have no adult guidance – not from a family member or even a gang leader,” these inmates said. “No adult guidance means chaos. Absolute chaos,” they said .
“When you’re a youth and you’re in a gang, and you use your gun against the gang’s rules, that gun is taken away from you. These youths who have guns and no one to control them are out of control .
They’re doing whatever they want to do without even thinking.” Young people and guns are really a bad combination in many ways .
Adam Benforado, an American lawyer, devotes a chapter of a book called Unfair to guns, concentrating mainly on the US National Rifle Association’s slogan of “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” That, Benforado says, is not true .
“Clutching a weapon can change us,” says Benforado .
This is a scary thought considering the fact that more and more impulsive teenagers and young men are in possession of guns .
Benforado says that in one experiment, participants were each given a toy weapon or a non-weapon like a ball to hold. Participants were told if they saw someone holding a gun, they should quickly point the object they were holding at the screen. If they saw someone holding other objects, like a phone, wallet or shoe, they should aim at the ground .
“The results were astounding,” says Benforado. “The simple act of wielding a gun biased a participant’s assessment of how dangerous someone was.” “Using a gun as a pointer leads people to perceive ambiguous objects as guns because perception and action planning employ shared processes in the brain, and that suggests that having a gun at your fingertips can make the world seem like a far more threatening place with potentially deadly consequences.” Clearly we are fighting a crime war on many fronts now. It’s convenient to blame every murder on a gang member, but it’s not necessarily true, and the convenience of such a pat answer detracts us from solving the social issues that are contributing to this multi-faceted gun culture that we live in .
So, what do we do about this gun culture? Next week: What research shows about changing a culture of crime