Three United States (US) congressmen have asked the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a review into the illegal trafficking of firearms from the US to the Caribbean.
Congressmen Joaquin Castro, Richard Durbin and Gregory Meeks said they have seen “high levels of gun violence and trafficking of illicit firearms across the Western Hemisphere”.
“Arms trafficking originating in the United States is drawing increased scrutiny from US law enforcement and increased concern from Caribbean leaders,” they wrote in an April 3 letter.
“Media reports cite Bahamian claims that more than 90 percent of guns confiscated and used as murder weapons in The Bahamas can be traced back to US manufacturers and gun shops.
“Prime Minister Philip Davis said, ‘Whereas we don’t want to get involved in their [US] domestic issue of the right to bear arms, we are concerned that purchasers of guns are not just buying them to bear but rather to export and to traffic.’”
Last month, Davis announced that The Bahamas joined a friend of the court brief in the US Court of Appeal in the First Circuit in support of Mexico, which is appealing its case to hold US gun manufacturers liable for the harm caused by their products.
Davis said there needs to be a crackdown on gun smuggling from the US to the Caribbean.
“There needs to [be] an intervention and where the evidence appears to them that a person is not buying it and exercising their right to bear it, but buying it with the purpose of trafficking, some legislative intervention needs to be engaged to make those persons responsible and accountable for the arms they purchase,” Davis said in 2022.
In their letter, the congressmen pointed to the effects illegal guns are having in Haiti, where gangs are using guns sources from the US to destabilize the country.
“[The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] maintains an online database of firearms trace data that includes data for Canada and Mexico since 2009 and Central America and the Caribbean since 2014.”
For the Caribbean in 2021, the database provides information on a total of 1,038 US-sourced firearms recovered and submitted to the ATF for tracing in five Caribbean countries: The Bahamas, 236; Dominican Republic, 94; Haiti, 106; Jamaica, 400; and Trinidad and Tobago, 202.
“Accordingly, we would like to obtain more in-depth information on the extent of the illicit American arms trafficking in the Caribbean and related effects, as well as current practices, and what more could be done to curtail the flow of these weapons,” the congressmen wrote.
The congressmen said they want the review to include an examination of how illicit weapons are being obtained from the US and how they are being smuggled to their final destination; whether arms are being diverted to illicit actors from legally exported purchases by private or government entities in the region; among other things.
There were 128 murders last year. Police said firearms were used in most of those incidents.