Marape right to push for ban

Editorial

FINANCE Minister James Marape, who revealed last week that he is the target of an assassination plot, is calling for greater control of firearms and for tougher penalties to be imposed for people who are illegally in possession of these weapons.
Marape says he will push for two gun reports, which have been collecting dust in Waigani for more than a decade, to be resurrected and implemented.
He is also proposing for a moratorium on all firearms and for the Government to consider retrieving these weapons through a buy-back scheme.
Although the Tari-Pori MP was compelled by the recent threats to kill him and his family, Marape’s push for a total ban on firearms is indeed a move in the right direction that should be fully supported by the Government and all law-abiding citizens.
Essentially, Marape is echoing concerns that have been raised over the years about the major threat that firearms pose to Papua New Guinea’s internal security and the safety of its people.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had announced soon after taking office that legislation would be drawn up to outlaw firearms.
“My thinking is that we should ban firearms completely in the country. You don’t need firearms to control law and order in the country,” O’Neill reportedly said at the time.
Since then the Government has been silent on this pertinent issue while law and order problems persisted.
Indeed, it would wise of the political leadership to endorse the two guns reports and seek Parliament’s approval for implementation in view of the rising crime rate in the urban centres and the continuous tribal conflicts in the rural areas that involve the heavy use of firearms.
Many people are predicting that the law and order situation will worsen during the 2017 general elections with rival candidates and their supporters armed to the teeth, especially in the volatile Highlands region.
And even the Electoral Commission has expressed concern about the safe conduct of the elections amid fears that it will be riddled with violence and corruption.
Hence, a total ban on firearms is timely and the right thing to do in view of the election scenario and the deteriorating law and order situation.
It would be in the best interest of our people that the O’Neill Government take a firm stand by imposing a total ban on firearms before the country goes to the polls.
While Minister Marape’s proposal for a moratorium or amnesty is commendable,
rounding up the country’s firearms would be a difficult task.
Thousands of guns belonging to the police or the armed forces have gone missing from armories, and while some were reportedly stolen.
A 2005 audit found that many US and Australian-supplied firearms had been sold to criminal gangs.
Others have ended up in the hands of warring tribes in the Highlands region.
Moreover, countless weapons have reportedly made their way illegally into the country in recent years, which have increased the threat to PNG’s internal security.
How do government authorities and agencies stop these illegal shipments of firearms is a question that is likely to remain unanswered for a long time.
The lack of funding and scarce resources presents a mission impossible for government agencies responsible for internal security.
Our Police Force seems to be the lone ranger fighting an uphill battle and it too is stretched to the limit in funding and resources.
Against this backdrop, criminal activities and violence involving firearms have been on the rise in the past decade and will continue until the Government clamps down on the illegal and indiscriminate use of these weapons.
Proponents of the gun ban, like Marape, argue that it helps to save lives.
In fact, it has been proven in Australia.
In 1996, thirty-five people were killed in a massacre in Port Arthur, a popular tourist site in Tasmania. It was one of the most gruesome and depressing gun violence incidents in Australia.
The then prime minister, John Howard, immediately clamped down on the ownership of guns and many weapons were destroyed.
Ever since, the homicides and killings have reduced drastically in Australia, to the point where the number of massacres per decade has reduced to zero.
PNG may have something to learn from down under, possibly one of the best arguments for gun control.

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