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‘We can’t put our heads in the sand’

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Speaking out: Jeff Baron, the Junior Minister of National Security, above, and right, former senator Cromwell Shakir addressing last night’s meeting. (Photographs by Adam Zacharias)

The chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force is calling for a “patient, proactive and collaborative” community approach to tackling gun violence.

Jeff Baron, the Junior Minister of National Security, acknowledged last night that “we have a long way to go”, in response to the non-fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Sandys man at the weekend, and the October 23 murder of 26-year-old Rickai Swan outside Southampton Rangers football club.

“I hear all the time that this shouldn’t be political,” said Mr Baron, speaking at a public forum on gun violence at the Bermuda Industrial Union’s headquarters.

“I agree, but do you know who’s the most p****d off and impacted about what’s going on right now? Not a party, not an agency, not the courts — it’s the communities themselves that are suffering.”

He said that public anger in response to the shootings was justified.

“People should always be outraged, because we don’t expect to be dealing with this in Bermuda. It’s not acceptable,” Mr Baron said.

“We don’t want young men to be buried, and we don’t want them in prison. We want them in society and we want them to have a stake in their own neighbourhoods.

“We cannot rely solely on enforcement agencies to clean this up, and we cannot rely solely on the community either. It has to be a collaborative approach.”

Also speaking at the meeting, defence lawyer Larry Scott called for preventative action and for parents to educate their children through example.

“If our integrity was right, we wouldn’t have this kind of problem. You don’t have to be a Bible-thumping Christian to work that one out,” said Mr Scott, the author of It’s Only 4%, which looks at crime in Bermuda and its causes. “We have got to set an example for our children to make a better society.”

Former senator Cromwell Shakir suggested that the community had “fallen asleep in protecting family life”.

“Our children did not wake up yesterday and decide they wanted to kill each other,” Mr Shakir said. “There has been an erosion, and this is the result.”

“We can solve the problem of violence, but change is a process and it’s not immediate. We don’t have an option of putting our heads in the sand. We need to be more responsible.”

Former senator Cromwell Shakir addresses last night's gun violence forum (Photo by Adrian Zacharias)