raffique shah----USE

It was the lure of the rifle that probably made up my mind for me. I enlisted in the Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Corps established at Presentation College, Chaguanas, in 1959. I was all of 13 years old, and I was eager to get on with “the gun”. It would take several months’ training—drills, map reading, more drills—before we eager beavers were allowed to touch the weapon.

When we did, some stern-looking corporals and sergeants taught us the basics, which I can sum up as safety, safety, safety. We learnt how to care for them, take them apart, clean and oil them (the firing pins had been removed from all our Mark IV .303 rifles, so they could not be fired, anyway). Slowly, we mastered drilling with the weapon, learning of its capabilities (at close range, its bullet could pierce two men) and characteristics before we of the “Pres Chaguanas” unit would be taken to a make-shift range on Trinidad Clay Products lands in Longdenville, where we fired our first rounds of ammunition—the relatively tame but deadly .22 inch rifle.

It would be almost a year after enlisting that we journeyed to the La Seiva range in Maraval and had our first experience with the Mark IV... and that involved more safety measures than actual firing. By age 18, in my case, having opted to enlist as an officer cadet in the T&T Defence Force, I went off to England and Sandhurst as well as the School of Infantry. And over a period of 27 months, I was trained in the art of warfare, which necessarily included the use of weapons that we here see only in movies, or, currently in video clips from Ukraine. I had my fill of light and medium machine guns, I fired hand-held anti-tank weapons (the 84mm Carl Gustav was Britain’s choice, and ours), 105mm and 120mm Howitzers, participated in war exercises that involved Britain’s new Chieftain tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APCs), lobbed (not “threw”, stupid...) live hand grenades, experienced one night in a nuclear submarine, engaged in aerial combat, and more.

Now, I have expounded on my experience with arms and ammunition and war machines of many descriptions, not because I want to impress, but because I think in Trinidad and Tobago, children’s fascination with the guns they see being misused in movies—Rambo, carrying at least two medium machine guns, firing both simultaneously, and squeezing their triggers until he runs out of belts—is so much hogwash, they must be taught to tell facts from fiction. If you do that “continuous fire” “bull” with one gun for more than a minute, you’d be lucky to escape the super-heated weapon literally exploding in your hands, sending your body-parts flying every which way.

Maybe I should rephrase this: everybody you and I know in this country wants to own a gun. From wealthy to poor, businessman/woman, clerk and factory worker, mostly decent, law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves from criminal elements who seem armed and are very dangerous—everybody wants a gun. They refer to the right to bear arms in America as an example of a society that has progressed by arming its people. Well, the USA is far from being crime-free and more people in America are killed by licensed firearms than possibly anywhere else in the world.

In most European countries, licensed firearms are more difficult to come by, but their crime rates are among the lowest in the world. The stark reality is we have too many firearms, mostly illegal and, it seems, an inexhaustible supply of a range of ammunition. The ease with which these young crimi­nals access both, and wreak havoc throughout the country, is a damning indictment against not only the forces of law and order, but elements who portray themselves as law-abiding, church-going pillars of the society, who when stripped naked are the ones who import these arms and ammunition, unconscionably more menacing than the punks who squeeze the triggers, bringing death to those in their paths. Until such time as we are prepared to unmask, uproot and incarcerate these demons who are soaking our soil with blood but show clean hands, we shall continue to suffer.

The merchants of death must be made to feel the consequences of their deathly dealings, to experience the pain innocent victims suffer. Simultaneously, we must find harsh ways of driving the fear of a citizenry wronged, now seeking vengeance against the dealers in death.

A regular reader of mine insists we need a Mossad-like squad to do the needful. I think we have better than that here. We just lack leadership and courage—two elusive qualities.

With good leaders and a few good men, we can clean up this country. Please, turn back the clock...

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Whether or not yesterday’s significant show of force by large groups of workers in Port of Spain is to be seen as an overreaction, it is cause for deep concern in the ­society. The Government has an urgent duty now to ­respond to it in such a manner as to ease the tension.

“We not taking that so” could easily be summed up as the ­anthem behind the turnout, as a first response to the offer on the table for settlement of long-delayed salary negotiations in the ­public sector.

I see you write about me again, she said, laughing. Mystified, as she was not present in my mind as I wrote my last column, I asked what she meant. She was referring to the people who bottled everything inside and the unexpected eruptions that come from what might seem slight triggers. It made me think of how many times I have tried to coax her to talk about the pains of her past, only to pull up when it was evident that dredging up the memories was too much for her.

Trinidad and Tobago nationals are advised (by me) against travelling to the United States due to endemic mass shootings motivated by various forms of hatred.

Mass shootings are incidents of gun violence in which at least four or more persons are killed or injured. The latest occurrence at the time of writing was Tuesday, when 19 primary school children and two teachers were killed. That overshadowed the May 15 slaughter of ten black people, and the 12 other mass shootings in between.

What really is all the fuss about Minister Foster Cummings and his $4,411,464.76 deposit into his personal account at Venture Credit Union?

The minister claims that “it was a straightforward business loan”, undertaken by him when he was a back bencher in the Senate, but before he was appointed a Cabinet minister.

Son, today is your 18th birthday, which means you can go out to buy a gun. I know you have been looking at several designs—so, if you wish, why not buy two? On the other hand, remember you’re still too young to buy even a beer.

Son, the best defence for a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun. Also, if every person in America owns a gun, we’ll be all safe.

Dad, how are you planning to protect kids in school?

The recent publication of a book on the life and times of Adrian Cola Rienzi (Krishna Deonarine) by Dr Brinsley Samaroo throws a spotlight on the meagre and inconsequential recognition accorded to this towering personage in the evolution and consolidation of the labour movement in Trinidad.