Moratorium only part of solution

Editorial

A MORATORIUM on firearms licences in 2000 appeared to have achieved very little.
The level of gun-related violence in the past six or seven years since has risen which suggests that there has been an increase in the number of firearms in civilian hands, despite the moratorium.
It means that these guns have either been smuggled in across the country’s loosely guarded borders or taken away from licensed firearm owners – individuals, disciplined forces or security companies.
Because of tribal fighting in parts of the Highlands, especially with the use of firearms, the government carried out a special operation in Hela and Southern Highlands and announced an amnesty period in which all illegal firearms were to have been surrendered.
The amnesty was to have extended to other parts of the Highlands region but the amnesty and gun-surrender exercise have been practically useless.
Yes, there were a large number of firearms surrendered and destroyed but those were not the kind and nor the numbers the amnesty was expected to have netted.
High-powered guns remained in the hands of tribal warlords and were being used in the violence during and after the national election.
Again, last Saturday, guns were used in Southern Highlands which resulted in the killing of two Hela-based policemen.
And in light of this latest incident and similar gun-related crimes elsewhere in the country, Police Minister Jelta Wong has imposed another indefinite moratorium on the issuance of firearms licences.
While that moratorium, which takes immediate effect, is in place, recommendations from the report on gun violence compiled nine years ago by retired army commander Jerry Singirok need to be taken into serious consideration.
On the eve of the recently concluded national election, Singirok again called for action on the recommendations by his committee which predicted that the election would be marred by violence related to the use of guns.
And he was right.
The report was presented in Parliament and for some reason, none of its 224 recommendations were implemented.
Singirok’s gun-control committee travelled the country and people spoke about the effects illegal guns were having on their life.
And people have waited nine years for the implementation of any or all of the recommendations of the committee.
Among its key recommendations were that the National Executive Council:

  •  Adopts a national gun-control strategy and establishes a national guns and violence reduction council;
  • Drafts and presents to Parliament legislation reflecting the will of the people PNG;
  • Tightens and enhances procedures for the issuing and renewing of firearms licences;
  • Prevents the leakage of weapons from State stocks (military and police);
  • Enhance border control through better co-ordination, training resources, mobility and community participation; and
  •  Conducts a national firearms amnesty for all civilian-held guns, preferably with leadership from politicians.
    The above are specific to gun control but the committee’s other recommendations are wide-ranging and include social and economic interventions by all stakeholders to reduce violence and promote socio-economic development.
    It should not be too much to ask of the government to implement some of the recommendations.
    The public had spoken on gun violence and have waited nine years to see if any government would follow through with the implementation of the recommendations made by the gun-control committee.
    An indefinite moratorium on the issuance of firearms licences is only one part of the solution which must also include some of the more pertinent recommendations offered so the public would know their government is serious about the gun problem.

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