UPDATED December 21, 2011: Bjerkanm sentenced to 240 hours community service
(pinned to top – scroll down for newer stories)
As expected, Johan Bjerkhamn will not go to jail over the accidental shooting death of his son. Instead he will do 240 hours of Community Service. That’s fine with BFP, but as we point out in this post, citizens have no answers on the important questions raised by this shooting.
Same old, same old ’bout hey.
Our original story first published Sept 8, 2011…
Bjerkhamn to be sentenced December 21, 2011
The Nation is reporting that Johan Bjerkhamn will probably receive “community service” as his penalty for accidentally shooting and killing his 11 year old son Luke.
No court can impose any penalty that is greater than what he is already under. The larger questions remain unanswered, as we said in the below post originally published on September 8, 2011…
No sentence can exceed the father’s burden
The manslaughter charge against Johan Bjerkhamn was withdrawn last Tuesday by Director of Public Prosecutions Charles Leacock. Bjerkhamn now only faces a charge that he “willfully exposed” his 11 year old son, Luke, “in a manner likely to cause injury to his health.” (Nation article here)
There was supposed to be a continuation of the court hearing today (Thursday September 8th) but I haven’t heard any results. The hearing and sentencing may be over as I write this post.
By all accounts Johan Bjerkhamn accidentally shot his son to death as he was handling a Glock pistol with the boy present. Bjerkhamn violated the first rule of gun handling and pointed the pistol at another human being that he did not intend to shoot. Whether the gun is empty or loaded that is the rule and it’s a good rule for tragically obvious reasons.
The pistol went off and the bullet passed through Mr. Bjerhamn’s hand before striking Luke in the chest.
The published sections of his statement to the police are heart-wrenching. Any father, any mother, can only imagine the horror upon realizing that they killed their son through their own carelessness.
As we commented in a previous post…
“Mr. Bjerkhamn should probably be banned for life from owning weapons, but other than that we can’t see anything to be done. No penalty can be worse than the burden he already carries.”
We agree with the DPP’s decision to drop the manslaughter charge, and we are pleased that this is being done in a public court and reported in the local news media. As recently as July 7, 2011, BFP criticized the authorities for failing to be transparent with the public about the Bjerkhamn case. We hope this newly-found will to keep the public informed continues.
Firearm dealer licenses primarily handed out to elites
There is an outstanding issue revealed by Luke’s death that is being ignored. It was rumoured that Johan Bjerkhamn had a firearms dealer license but was not a genuine dealer. Bajans believe that Firearms dealer licenses are primarily handed out to the upper class and political elites as a matter of convenience to allow people to get around the law restricting the number of firearms that one person can own.
Bajans also believe that there is no firearms safety test, demonstration or refresher training administered by the police as a condition of any firearms license.
Bajans also believe that the entire firearms licensing process is arbitrary with no defined standards as to who is afforded the privilege and who is not.
If you’re a somebody, perhaps an elected politician who feels compelled to strap a pistol to your ankle in Parliament, you get a license easily. if you are a friend of the government, or partnered with the government in business like Doctor Alfred Sparman, there is no impediment to obtaining a firearms license even if you have a previous conviction for kidnapping and rape.
On the other hand, if you are an ordinary shop owner who has been robbed three times in the past year while taking the deposit to the bank, it is unlikely you’ll get a gun license through any reasonable process. You’re not a somebody.
Bajan citizens cannot intelligently debate any subject without access to the facts
How many licensed people are there on the island? How many registered firearms? How many “firearms dealers” are there? How many of these so-called “dealers” are legitimate and how many are “dealers” for personal convenience? What standards determine whether a firearms license is issued? Why is no training required?
If the news media won’t ask such questions, and the Commissioner of Police keeps this information from the citizens, how can we as a society discuss firearms and shape the future of our Barbados?
The trouble with Police Commissioner Dottin is that he starts with an old-school Colonial elitist attitude that asks “Why should the police provide this information to ordinary citizens?”
Instead, the standard should be “Why shouldn’t the police provide this information to ordinary citizens?”
If there is no good reason for not making this kind of information available, it should be there for citizens in a free society.
The police need to learn that transparency is not just standing up and giving a press conference once in a while when THEY feel like it. Transparency flows from an attitude and an acknowledgement that the police need to be accountable to the people at all times – not just when Commissioner Dottin thinks we lower citizens should know something.