Access to weapons has been a very facile process in the country. By and large, lawmakers and law enforcement have been careless about who possesses weapons and how they obtain them. Continuing this awakening, the interior ministry has issued a directive that all automatic weapons be surrendered for Rs50,000 or exchanged for semi-automatic weapons. The requirement of a license itself has only recently been enforced and even so, illegal sales continue with anything being possible in this country so long as the proverbial stomachs of corrupt persons are kept ‘well-fed’. Although we are grateful for the suspension of automatic weapons licenses, we wonder why there is a two-month grace period with the deadline set for January 15 of next year. There seem to be some design flaws in the new law but the hope is that with time, the wrinkles will be smoothened out.
It must be cautioned that two months is ample time for people to figure out some way around the rule or find discreet hiding places for their weapons. This ordinance should have been issued right after the Peshawar Army Public School attack if not earlier, but it comes nearly three years later. Stipulations for the issuing of licenses would have also served citizens better by careful vetting prior to licenses being issued. Of course, the issue of weapons misuse goes beyond the scope of licensure and towards illegal accessibility to weapons. We have a long history of misuse of weapons, whether in mugging cases or revenge by tribal and criminal mindsets – let alone terrorism.
We express our gratitude for this directive but the momentum needs to continue to implement strict rules against criminals as this country has a long history of people trying to flout the law. Indeed, guns kill people, so before handing over yet another license, the interior ministry must establish stronger gun laws. Gun violence has become a global issue and Pakistan needs to start playing its part in restricting access to weapons and keeping citizens safe.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2017.