Draft law to ease regulations on gun ownership draws ire

December 14, 2010, Tuesday/ 17:48:00/ AYŞE KARABAT

Possible amendments to gun laws that are intended to ease restrictions on owning and carrying small arms have faced much criticism in Turkey.

The bill, currently in subcommittee at Parliament, ensures easier access to guns, allowing people to own as many as five weapons and the right to carry two of them at one time. Some civil society organizations underline that such regulations will lead to more crime and will threaten lives, especially those of women and children, but supporters of the amendments argue that easing procedures to obtain a license for weapons will make it easier to track them.

The bill is still being debated by an Internal Affairs sub-commission in Parliament, and it is not clear when it will be put on Parliament’s agenda. The law would ensure that for obtaining a license to possess weapons any doctor’s report would be sufficient, whereas current laws require a report from the Health Commission. The minimum age for possessing a shotgun will be 18, and for other weapons 21.

The number of weapons owned by individuals is not available to the public, but the Umut Foundation, a civil society organization that encourages gun control, estimates that in 2009 there were around 2.5 million licensed weapons and 7.5 million unlicensed weapons.

Turkish Psychiatrists Association Secretary-General Burhanettin Kaya told Today’s Zaman it is very concerning that the state is pursuing such action, which would make it easier to engage in violence. “When this draft law came onto the agenda we underlined our concerns twice, and we were hoping that there would be reasonable regulations, but it was just the opposite. It is really unfair that for the sake of the gun lobbies society’s interests are being neglected,” he underlined.

According to Kaya what society needs are projects that restrict gun ownership and preventive measures to limit access to weapons. “Not even all soldiers and policemen should carry weapons, but the draft regulation is envisages granting all of them the right to do so. Most murders are committed with guns. If there is a gun available, people who are inclined to commit suicide use them, and guns are the most widely used tools for domestic violence,” he explained.

Hülya Gülbahar from the Association for Education and Supporting Women Candidates (KA-DER) underlined that women and children are the main victims of such laws and easy access to guns. “The men possessing weapons in uniform or not in uniform are the main threat to the lives of women. These weapons are used at home against women, largely as means to threaten [women]. When it comes to rape, forcing women to agree to divorce or taking away their right to have a say in family matters, guns are widely used. Children also die when playing with them,” she told Today’s Zaman.

Gülbahar recalled that in order to obtain a license to carry a gun the fee is TL 2,171, and for a license to possess a different kind of weapon it is about TL 694. “These are very symbolic amounts, showing us it is so cheap to create social disruption,” she said.

But Cuma İçten, the chairman of the Weapon Producers, Sellers and Lovers Association (SÜSASD), claims that a weapon is a basic human right, saying: “It is expensive for the state to protect every citizen. But self-defense is a right for everyone. It is easy for illegal organizations have weapons, so upstanding citizens should be given the same right.”

He claimed that the new draft actually would implement a limitation on access to guns; for example, it would restrict gun owners to buying no more than 200 bullets in a year. “Weapons are technical objects. If you don’t get used to them, if you don’t know them and the possibility of accidents increases, so training is necessary and 200 bullets is not enough for this [training],” he argued, and added that target shooting is a sport and like all sports it should be learned at an early age. He also added that lowering the legal age for owning a shotgun should not be considered a negative thing.

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