March 24, 2010

Gun Legislation and Public Safety

If sections of the public are allowed to carry personal firearms what would be the effect on the current levels of uncontrolled aggression in various parts of the country?
With the latest violence that has continued in the now notorious Jos, Plateau State and the manner in which they were executed one wonders how events would have paned out had the public been allowed access to personal firearms. Nigerians are a very vulnerable public. Millions of ordinary citizens carry absolutely no form of personal firearms, millions are not able to afford any form of legal protection and millions feel absolutely hopeless and helpless to change things or even attempt to change things around them and in government. In contrast, certain sections of the public are very volatile. Sections of the public especially in the Northern parts of the country traditionally carry pocket knives (daggers), swords or bow & poisoned arrow with them at all times.

If sections of the public are allowed to carry personal firearms what would be the effect on the current levels of uncontrolled aggression in various parts of the country? What would be the effect on violent crimes?  harassment by Police (armed or uniformed officers)? Homicides? etc. What would be its effect on the current ethnic violence that is going on in Ebonyi State? My gut feeling is that certain qualifying sections of the public should be allowed to carry personal firearms. Public office holders who qualify for state protection should be escorted by armed police orderlies. the National youth Service Corpers should receive certified training in firearm handling. Private security firms should be selectively granted licence to carry arms depending on the scope and area of their operation. Responsible members of the public should be granted license to carry personal forearms. Responsibility should be graded based on the temperament, level of education, status in community etc of the applicants. He/She must never have been involved in any violent demonstrations, violent attack on citizens, any forms of public recklessness or any form of criminal behaviour or conviction in any court of law (including Sharia Law Courts). The actual firearm should be the property of the state and can be seized by the state on payment of a compensation less than or equal to the estimated market value of the firearm on seizure and licence should then be withdrawn.
Will this cure the country of violent crimes? Absolutely no! But I cannot imagine house breaking and homicides happening so often. I cannot imagine one man with a machete killing scores of innocent citizens. I cannot imagine armed harassment and kidnapping for ransomed happening at the same level at which it is taking place now. Of course arming the public would not solve the problems raised by bad government and bad administration and it will not cure the current culture of kidnapping for ransomed. But I believe it would save a lot of lives. The country may not necessarily be at the point were this issue should be considered urgently but we would get there soon enough. But it is time for the National Assembly to begin public hearings on the possibility of reviewing our  present gun legislation – the current legislation is at least ten years old; actually it was first enacted in 1959 before independence by the Colonial administration. The purpose of it was to keep guns out of the hands on Nigerians but it has and does not now serve our national interest for public safety.
We have to also consider the fact that corruption can effectively proliferate guns in the public if any legislation is passed that will allow personal firearm possession. The National Identity Card scheme is not exactly in place and that might even add to the dilemma of gun control. There is no complete existing finger printing and DNA profiling system or database available in the country making it even more difficult to keep tab on guns in the public domain. The arms manufacturing division of the national army  -The Defence Industries Corporation may need major expansion to handle the volume that would be needed if a more liberal gun legislation is passed; otherwise foreign manufacturers may cash in and this may not be actually to the best interest of the country. Gun running may actually increase since the market is now there. Notwithstanding the implications the right thing to do was to allow more individuals to carry personal firearms.
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