Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bang! You're Dead!

On the Mainland, and to a limited extent on the island, there are armed guards at banks and businesses. On the island they only appear at the bank. On the Mainland one finds them at the doorway to every business; McDonalds, banks, department stores, electronic stores, restaurants, etc. They do not seem to be in force at small pharmacies, some stores that sell material for sewing, some agriculture stores and suprisingly enough, one store in LaCeiba who sells liquor and bulk dry good items does not have a guard at their door.

The first time we came to Honduras we observed soldiers everywhere carrying automatic weapons and we wondered what we were doing in a country that had armed soldiers walking around public areas. Since that time the soldiers have mostly been replaced by “private” security guards. These, supposedly, are meant to thwart a robbery. Right! Banks continue to be robbed as well as stores in spite of these efforts.

The downside of this practice is that, for the most part, these men have very little training in handling their weapons. I have seen bank guards standing with their rifle pointed down with the muzzle on their toe and their finger on the trigger. They move the guns/rifles about with little caution and seem to be oblivious as to the damage that could be caused if it went off.

For example, today, May 20th, in Tegucigalpa, police say that Honduras' top prosecutor had been shot by his bodyguard — apparently by accident. National police chief Ambrosio Ordonez says Leonidas Rosa's bodyguard was cleaning his weapon when it unexpectedly fired. The bullet ricocheted off the floor and grazed Rosa's leg as he got in his car to go to work Monday. Rosa was being treated at a local hospital. Now, why was this man cleaning his gun during his working hours? Is this not something that should have been done before he began his shift and in a safe area?

People on the island own hand guns and rifles and some own AK47’s! They shoot these with abandon not considering that if a bullet doesn’t strike the target they aim at, it may keep moving until it meets a solid mass. They shoot up into the air during holidays. Hey, guy, what goes up must come down! People have shot themselves pulling their gun out of the pants! They target practice in populated areas and assume that since they are pointing at a target (even if they don’t hit it), no one will be hurt!

There are no rules of armament here. There are no policing agencies to see that you receive proper instructions before obtaining a firearm. There are no classes in gun safety. If you can obtain a gun you, therefore, can use it! There was an effort, I must admit, on the island to register guns but, overall, I don't think it was very effective.

I do not like guns. I support gun control. Guns kill and uneducated people with guns are more than dangerous. Simple? Right! The mind set of the people in Honduras is entirely different. If you have a gun you are Macho. If you have a gun you are in control. If you shoot someone, well, sorry but that’s life. You are a man and your are entitled to a gun! This is the mind set and it is frightening. I hardly ever hear reports of women handling a gun, although I am sure that there are some women in Honduras who have found the necessity of using one. Overall, however, they are men's "toys".

Fortunately, most crimes on the island are not violent and the weapon of choice is a machete. Opps, that’s really dangerous too.

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