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Aug 2, 2006

Y.F.F. seeks campaign to ban toy guns

Story PictureA few years ago there was a popular song called “Too Many Guns in this Town.” Well, the passage of time has only made those words more appropriate: so much so that a campaign is being started to get rid of not only real weapons, but toy guns as well. News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
At thirteen years old Michael Augustine knows about more guns than most adults twice his age.

Michael Augustine, Yabra Resident
?Ah nine.?

Janelle Chanona
?A nine … what else??

Michael Augustine
?A machine gun … a thirty eight … a pump twelve … a rocket launcher.?

A resident of one of the country?s toughest neighbourhoods, seventeen year old Latanya Gamboa says gunshots are just another part of her reality.

Latanya Gamboa, Yabra resident
?It happen everyday … you just have to be lucky fu avoid deh kinda situation. Dat da the way how it is now. You can?t seh nobody wah fool with me. You just have to be lucky fu avoid deh kind of situation.?

Janelle Chanona
?You think da something whe people get used to … they hear wah gunshot, duck down fu ah lee while and just go bout deh business??

Latanya Gamboa
?Yeah da like that. Oh, shootout deh happen ova deh. Fifteen minutes … ok area clear, deh go bout deh business. Unless somebody fu deh get shot, den deh kay. Da so people stand out yah.?

In a city gripped by crime, guns have become a common sight on the streets of the old capital.

Linsford Castillo, Director, Youth for the Future
?And we are saying that if we are to deal with this problem, we have to deal with it from the root. And that is why we are embarking on a campaign to ban the sale of toy guns in this country.?

According to Director of Youth for the Future, Linsford Castillo, the banning of toy guns serves two purposes: firstly, it prevents criminals from using the realistic looking copies to commit crimes and more importantly, discourages children from glorifying violence.

Linsford Castillo
?We are looking at the guns that look similar to the real thing. But really if we are to embark on the ban of guns, then might as well we go all the way and we campaign on banning the sale of toy guns all together. So whatever it is that is a toy, that looks like a gun that is what we are talking about. Since it is affecting all of us, the public should be supporting this and I would hope that we would get the necessary public support to ensure that this campaign is successful.?

Janelle Chanona
?Linsford, did you have a toy gun as a kid??

Linsford Castillo
?Yes I did. That is why even as a parent, I am saying, what message do we send to our children when we would buy a toy gun for them. That is really where it really starts from. So it is with that backdrop that we?re saying that the message needs to be sent, that we need to ensure that we try to do our part in decreasing crime and violence in our home, our community and our country.?

Liz Longsworth of the Yabra Citizens Development Committee supports the Y.F.F. initiative. But she wants the ban list expanded to include dynamite and videogames.

Liz Longsworth, Yabra Citizens Development Committee
?Police had made some raids on some places locating popshots, because you know popshots sound like gun. We had an instance where somebody got shot because we thought it was popshot, nobody didn?t look out, and so we didn?t see who did the shooting. So from then, we had lobbied for the ban of guns and popshots. I deh challenge the parents, no think bout buy no gun or no nothing fu deh children, because you no need that. Even video games, because even my seven year old deh argue with my twelve year old that he know what da wah baby Uzi from whe da no wah baby Uzi because of games.?

When we toured city stores, we found several realistic looking guns on sale for less than five dollars. But for a couple hundred dollars, customers can purchase some more sinister looking air pistols and ?B.B.? guns.

The police evidence room also boasts a collection of ?toys? used in the commission of a crime.

A.S.P. Chester Williams, Head C.I.B.
?With the fact that the real firearms are not as much available on the streets, the criminal elements have gone now to utilize imitated firearms, toy guns, as a form of weapons to go and commit crimes against persons.?

Janelle Chanona
?So you would be supportive of a campaign to ban these sorts of guns from being imported and sold in the country??

Chester Williams
?I would be a hundred and ten percent supportive of that. It will decrease the amount of crimes being committed with firearms. No one will say this is a toy gun; it fits the description of a forty five calibre. Because the barrel is very wide, it pulls back way and it has the appearance of a real gun. So if someone puts this on you, you wouldn?t take the chance and say it?s a toy gun.?

Latanya Gamboa
?When it comes to guns, everybody knows about guns, from the smallest to the biggest. Everybody knows it wrong. Majority of the people wants to get the guns off the street and the crime to go down. But I guess people have to find a way to deal with that.?

Janelle Chanona
?How do you say, if you could tell the people who could do something about it, what would suggest??

Latanya Gamboa
?Everybody could do something about it, but it needs to start from the individual. Like the children, the parents who have control over the children needs to get the children in more positive things, church, youth groups, sports and the adults need to talk amongst themselves, there has to be more unity in the neighbourhood. People need fu find a way fu resolve deh problems without the guns or quarrel or verbal abuse.?

Janelle Chanona
?What you do when you?re not playing with guns? You find something else to do??

Michael Augustine

Janelle Chanona
?Like what??

Michael Augustine
?Play basketball or football.?

Janelle Chanona
?According to organizers, the next step in banning toy guns will include a sit down with community partners to formulate a proposal which will then be put forward to the Government of Belize. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.?

In an interesting coincidence, four men were today jointly charged with the crime of “Having an Imitation Firearm with Criminal Intent.” Twenty-five year old George Jones, sixteen year old Julian Ebanks, eighteen year old Shawn Gibson and sixteen year old Robert Young all pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released on two thousand dollars bail. The arrests were made after the men’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint on the Northern Highway. The car in question did not have any license plates.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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