Spence repeats call for a new gun amnesty

An island-wide gun amnesty would save lives, a community activist said yesterday.

Gina Spence, who runs Gina Spence Productions, said getting even one gun off the streets could have a positive impact.

Ms Spence added that the pattern of gun use had changed, with murders and attempted murders taking place outside victims’ homes in heavily populated areas.

She said that increased the risk to innocent bystanders, as well as leaving witnesses traumatised.

Ms Spence added: “Communities and countries all around the world do gun amnesties.

“If we could get one gun off the street, to me, that would be worth a life, so I will continue to press for that.”

She said: “I think my concern is about not just the loss of life, it’s that the last three shootings, the one in Friswells Hill, the one in Happy Valley and then this last one, they all took place at people’s front doors.

“Any child, any neighbour, anybody could’ve been walking in that space.”

Ms Spence was speaking after the shooting death of Paul Johnson, 33, outside his home in Rambling Lane in Pembroke in the early hours of Monday morning.

A 21-year-old man was later arrested in connection with the incident.

Ms Spence said: “I’ve been calling for a gun amnesty for three years.”

She added frequent shooting incidents or murders took a massive emotional toll on communities and families.

Ms Spence, who visited the scene of Mr Johnson’s murder on Monday, said children as well as adults had seen his body lying in front of his home.

She added: “I’m always concerned when a child who witnesses this sort of incident shows up at school; what’s the protocol?

“What do we do for that child? How do we service them? It can’t be generic counselling, it’s homicide.”

Ms Spence said: “I think we need to acknowledge that this has shifted. It’s not in the dark and away from everybody any more, it’s on our front steps.”

She added: “Today you have a mother that is broken. There are no words to even explain or express what people go through when they get that call.”

Ms Spence highlighted there was often a major financial strain on families of murder victims.

She explained: “I think the other challenge that we have with these incidents happening so frequently is the cost.

“These are working-class families and a funeral is a minimum of $8,000.

“You want to give your loved ones a respectful burial and these costs put people in debt on top of the loss itself.”

Ms Spence said more had to be done for grief-stricken families. She added: “I think that, when we go in, there should be a community team … somebody has to be there just to hear the heart of the person and to start to talk to them about starting a funeral. Some people have never ever buried a person before.”

Ms Spence said that sometimes a family lost their breadwinner.

She added: “The data would say 100 per cent are male and 100 per cent have been black men, and if that person was helping to pay for the light bill last week, then this week it’s one surviving parent who has to take responsibility.

“We have to look at these things because your house can go from a very stable environment as a child to a very unstable one.”

Ms Spence praised people in the Rambling Lane area who rallied round to support Mr Johnson’s family after the shooting.

She said: “There were neighbours coming out who were bringing blankets, offering food, doing what neighbourhoods do, and to me that’s what we celebrate — that there are still neighbourhoods where people will come and cook a meal, and offer to take the children to their house and make the phone calls for you.

“That’s where the power of the community comes into play because without that element on top of this horrific experience, you’re going to have to try to figure it all out on your own.”

“I think we need to build up our community’s capacity for more and more people certified and qualified in some of these [counselling areas] because the need is great.”

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