Dear Editor: What would be cost in blood of Dr Deyalsingh’s plea to arm “the citizenry”?

“Dr Varma Deyalsingh has suggested ‘arming the citizenry’ with guns when he addressed the 3rd Sitting of the Senate […] on 13 October 2022… He was cursorily cautious to include with ‘proper checks and balances’. Knowing what those proper checks and balances would be and how to keep them ‘proper’ is the first big issue.

“[…] In the frame of well-documented spiralling horrific domestic violence against women, some men of that ilk would probably opt for their ‘licenced’ weapon.

“Road rage, all too common from a ‘bad drive’, could involve more shoot-ups between the holders of licenced guns and others holding unlicenced guns. What about stray bullets hitting other people or vulnerable children caught in the vicinity—as is foreseeable? These are real-world considerations…”

Image: The impact of a stray bullet.

The following Letter to the Editor, which warns against Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh’s plea to arm the citizenry as a response to crime, was submitted to Wired868 by Dr Russell D Lutchman MRCPsych LLB(Hons) HRD(Amnesty Int’l) consultant forensic psychiatrist:

Dr Varma Deyalsingh has suggested “arming the citizenry” with guns when he addressed the 3rd Sitting of the Senate—3rd Session, 12th Republican Parliament—on 13 October 2022.

In my professional role, I frequently consider the risk of death or serious harm to other persons arising from the use of weapons.

Dr Deyalsingh opened his address by speaking about the mental challenges expected to “hit” Trinbagonian citizens, in coming weeks and months. Appropriately, he was using his knowledge and insights as a psychiatrist—a medically qualified doctor.

Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2022)

That said, he went on to say: “… so, what I’m saying we have to defend ourselves and our families, people may stay at home to get away from the world thinking they are safe in their home and their sanctuaries. They are no longer safe.

“A caring government would allow persons to get firearm users licence [FUL] to protect themselves as daily reports say we are sitting ducks… the Commissioner of Police mentioned that home invasions are increasing. So, I’m saying give persons the access with the proper checks and balances…”

This is when he strayed out of his depth to make the sensationalist suggestion to “arm the sitting duck citizenry”.

He was cursorily cautious to include with “proper checks and balances”. Knowing what those proper checks and balances would be and how to keep them “proper” is the first big issue.

Photo: Stray bullets.

Retired Justice of Appeal Stanley John in January 2022 aptly described FUL issuance as “a thriving well-oiled white collar criminal enterprise… under the nose” of then-commissioner of police Gary Griffith.

Recently in local media, it was reported that 26 persons had been charged for corruption and misbehaviour in public office regarding the issuing FULs. Of those, only five have been reported to be members of the public—the rest are members of the TTPS. So much for “proper checks”.

As a psychiatrist, Dr Deyalsingh would do well to consider more deeply the lawful possession and potential misuse of firearms by the mentally disturbed.

Disturbed individuals span a whole cross-section of people: from the chronically angry, those with a secret agenda for revenge of some sort, those who have been abused and suffer with subclinical post-traumatic mental health problems, to some of the ~10% (on average) of individuals who unbeknownst to themselves suffer with a personality disorder (a clinical entity under F60-F69 of ICD-10, soon to be replaced by ICD-11).

Former police commissioner Gary Griffith (left) and TTPS Legal Unit head Christian Chandler have both been tainted by the controversial issuance of FULs during Griffith’s tenure.
(Copyright TTPS)

Consider the cultural context of tabanca for example; a man of “unsettled mind” opting for homicidal violence because he “cyah take the rejection”.

In the frame of well-documented spiralling horrific domestic violence against women, some men of that ilk would probably opt for their “licenced” weapon instead of the “choice cutlass”.

Road rage, all too common from a “bad drive”, could involve more shoot-ups between the holders of licenced guns and others holding unlicenced guns. What about stray bullets hitting other people or vulnerable children caught in the vicinity—as is foreseeable? These are real-world considerations.

Screening processes will be heavily dependent on the honesty of applicants (unlikely for a majority)—and any other information that may be plucked from health records or some national database.

Image: Gun play in domestic violence.

If for example an applicant for a FUL of average intelligence wanted to exact revenge on some perceived wrongdoer, it is most unlikely they would declare sleep, mood or anger problems, or other problems that might indicate the possibility of a mental disorder.

In the event of successfully traversing the screening processes, nothing prevents a licenced gun-holder from becoming mentally disordered to the extent that they may, in a fit of rage, use their licenced weapon inappropriately.

In America, the gun-capital of the first world where there is no true regulation, they are not swift enough to detect those types of people and protectively confiscate their firearms. Therefore, I do not imagine systems in T&T will be any better.

Image: USA infamously struggles to cope with gun violence.

Another equally important worry is the security for firearms stored at home. You do not need to be an expert to imagine rocking in your hammock, minding your own business, when your front door is suddenly kicked open by a gang and you are robbed at gunpoint and forced to hand over your licenced gun—lucky if you survive.

Can Dr Deyalsingh face up to consoling the distraught parent of a child shot dead as “collateral damage” by a stray bullet from that “licenced [weapon]”—that which was supposed to protect? Can he take the blood on his hands?

This is not a simple numbers game, where you say: “let’s give the people guns and we expect to see serious crime falling by so much percent.” How many licenced guns need to be introduced into the citizenry “to bring down” crime and by what “acceptable” percent?

And further, consider this: “at what cost?” I am referring to human tragedies—not cost in terms of money.

Photo: A man reaches for his firearm during a traffic incident.

How much collateral murder is considered acceptable?

Lawmakers should give little weight, or none at all, to Dr Deyalsingh’s opinion on the matter. The people of T&T need to apply a better degree of common sense.

The GOVTT’s policy on combatting the crime rate and protecting its citizens from harm, should not be persuaded to allow people to more easily obtain firearm users licence to protect themselves.

In a country where crime is already out of control, should lawmakers be contributing to another Wild West—trading blood for FULs? I don’t think so.

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  1. This is so typical for TT. We have a permanent crime wave, criminals can get any gun they want, and then some anti gun person has to show up to want to prevent law abiding people from defending themselves. Nobody said owning a gun is without responsibility, the first issue is safe storage and training, but just as important is having the gun in the forst place. The time has come to get a 2nd amendment style law, any citizen of TT who is a law abiding, sane adult should be a able to legally purchase a gun if they want to and this also of course means that the anti gun people can decide to be defenceless and proud while being robbed, raped and murdered by criminals. Our fishermen need guns, our store owners need guns, the elderly who are being targeted in home invasion burglaries need guns, even the doubles men being robbed and need guns. This is not 1980’s Trinidad and Tobago. The fairy tale gone, now we have a saturation of criminals who prey on weakness and who rob, rape, burglarize and murder. Give the people the means to fight back and they will it’s as simple as that. We need to change the laws so we can hang corrupt police, customs, coast guard, army and Gov officials who collude with criminals because it is their corruption that caused this. They swore an oath, an oath must mean something, if you break it there must be consequences, they should hang as traitors. What is happening now is not new, I read a newspaper report years ago talking about how a corrupt customs officer let the guns pass that were used to do the 1990 coup, already then it was possible to import illegal firearms through legal ports. Trinidad suffers from a saturation of corruption and a saturation of criminals as a result of that. We can never fix TT back as long as corruption is part of the culture.

    • What a completely asinine comment!

    • “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease.Against stupidity we are defenseless.

      Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.

      For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.”

      Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945)
      “On Stupidity” – Letters and Papers from Prison

  2. Another quick fix. When are we ever going to learn? The country continues to pay a heavy price for these off the cuff attempts at fixing problems. We see it with the governments we vote into office and persons hired to manage some of our highest offices/institutions. Crime requires urgent attention and firm action on the part of our leaders. But there are dire consequences for making decisions in haste/under pressure and not giving consideration for the implications that are most certainly going to occur down the road. Is putting more guns into the existing mix a wise decision, I have lots of doubt where that is concern

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