NYT Front Treats Guns as Killers, Ignores Real Ones: Gun 'Started Wreaking Havoc in Jamaica'

August 27th, 2019 10:32 PM

A strange travelogue appeared on the front page of Sunday’s edition -- tracing not someone's vacation experience, but following a gun, from the United States to Jamaica: “1 Pistol, 9 Killings: An Epidemic Overseas, Spread by U.S. Guns.” The text box: “Lax Laws Hide Flow of Illegal Firearms.” It was written by Azam Ahmed, New York Times Caribbean bureau chief. There’s little mention made of the murderers themselves; Ahmed’s focus suggests the real evil is the inanimate metal objects used by the killers.

It’s another angle to promote gun control, blaming gun crime in one state or region on firearms from another. But if guns are the problem, why aren’t crime rates also high where the guns originated? Perhaps it’s the criminal element, not inanimate weaponry, that is the deciding factor.

Ahmed anthropomorphized guns, and one female-identified handgun (hail feminism?) in particular (click “expand”)

She came to Jamaica from the United States about four years ago, sneaking in illegally, stowed away to avoid detection. Within a few short years, she became one of the nation’s most-wanted assassins.


With few clues to identify her, the police named her Briana. They knew only her country of origin -- the United States -- where she had been virtually untraceable since 1991. She was a phantom, the eighth-most-wanted killer on an island with no shortage of murder, suffering one of the highest homicide rates in the world. And she was only one of thousands.

Briana, serial number 245PN70462, was a 9-millimeter Browning handgun.

Clever. But this nonjudgemental way of thinking conveniently downplays human responsibility, setting up a morally neutral tool as the epitome of evil and thus softening the ground for stricter regulations or bans of that tool:

An outbreak of violence is afflicting Jamaica, born of small-time gangs, warring criminals and neighborhood feuds that go back generations -- hand-me-down hatred fueled by pride. This year, the government called a state of emergency to stop the bloodshed in national hot spots, sending the military into the streets.

Again, don’t blame the people, blame the weaponry (click “expand”):

Guns like Briana reside at the epicenter of the crisis. Worldwide, 32 percent of homicides are committed with firearms, according to the Igarapé Institute, a research group. In Jamaica, the figure is higher than 80 percent. And most of those guns come from the United States, amassed by exploiting loose American gun laws that facilitate the carnage.


In the United States, the dispute over guns focuses almost exclusively on the policies, consequences and constitutional rights of American citizens, often framed by the assertion “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” -- that the reckless acts of a few should not dictate access for all.

But here in Jamaica, there is no such debate. Law enforcement officials, politicians and even gangsters on the street agree: It’s the abundance of guns, typically from the United States, that makes the country so deadly....

Inanimate metal objects apparently murder on their own volition. The reporter is being purposefully metaphorical. Still, the denial of human responsibility is striking:

Purchased in 1991 by a farmer in Greenville, N.C., the Browning vanished from the public record for nearly 24 years -- until it suddenly started wreaking havoc in Jamaica. For three years, its ballistic fingerprint connected it to shootings, mystifying law enforcement. Finally, after a firefight with the police, it was recovered last year and its bloody run came to an end.

(Readers of a certain age may be reminded of a 1970s liberal TV-movie of the week “The Gun,” which had a plot reminiscent of this true account)

Ahmed casually admitted that Jamaica has strict gun laws (yet massive gun violence, which rather undercuts his gun control argument):

Jamaica’s own gun laws are relatively strict, with fewer than 45,000 legal firearms in a country of almost three million.

But it is awash in illegal weapons....

Again, guns are blamed for all-too-human misdeeds: “Because guns are so plentiful, small insults and old vendettas that might otherwise leave few casualties grow much more dangerous -- not just for the combatants, but also for anyone who happens to be in the way.”

Naturally, it’s all Ronald Reagan’s fault: “President Ronald Reagan had signed a bill that prohibited the creation of any sweeping national gun registry five years earlier, a pivotal piece of legislation in the history of American gun law.”

Ahmed found another anecdote, and another inanimate metal “culprit”:

Joviane Hall was D.J.-ing at a local bar near Clarendon at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2017, when gunmen burst in without warning.

After robbing the bar and its patrons, they opened fire, hitting Mr. Hall, who died on the way to the hospital. Officials recognized the culprit, a weapon they had come to loathe: the Browning.

The story is part of a Times mini-trend. Chicago bureau chief Monica Davey wrote a similar story two weeks ago, but involving guns being transported across state lines instead of across country borders, in “When Cities Try to Limit Guns, State Laws Bar the Way”: “Ms. Lightfoot said Indiana -- not far from Chicago -- has been a constant source of guns that end up on Chicago’s streets.”

Again, if guns are the root of the evil, why isn’t Indiana (where the guns are coming from) awash in murderous violence like Chicago?