While some people simply enjoy shooting into the air on important days in celebration, it’s devastating for those whose loved ones are killed or injured in streets, parks, picnic areas, balconies or other outdoor areas by stray bullets. In a recent incident, a groom killed his father and two of his aunts and injured eight others when he fired into the air at his wedding in the southeastern province of Gaziantep. Many experts have agreed that restrictions on gun ownership are needed to tackle this issue; otherwise, they believe stray bullets will continue to claim innocent lives.
Ayhan Akcan, a member of the executive board of the Umut Foundation, which is trying to raise awareness of the benefits of restricting gun ownership, said 700-800 people are killed or injured each year in Turkey because of stray bullets shot during wedding ceremonies, festivals, football matches and various other outdoor events. Explaining that people shoot into the air, particularly at weddings, to show their happiness, Akcan pointed out that the number of people killed by stray bullets grows in the summer due to the increase in wedding ceremonies. Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Akcan said gun ownership in Turkey is widespread.
“The government should restrict gun ownership through serious changes to gun control laws. I believe that preventing individuals from owning guns plays an important role in decreasing the number of people killed by stray bullets. In spite of the fact that people claim they carry guns in the name of security, it is a fact that these guns are dangerous not only for other people but also for themselves,” Akcan stated. Akcan added that carrying a gun in public is not currently prohibited in Turkey; however, he believes it should be banned so as not to put people’s lives at risk.
Psychologist Esra Bayraktar discussed the reasons behind men’s attraction to guns. She believes that there is a common opinion among the public in Turkey that men using guns are associated with courage and manliness. Noting that men do not need to use guns to show their courageousness, Bayraktar stated that unfortunately men often use guns to gain prestige at ceremonies such as weddings or circumcisions.
“When we look at cartoons, we can easily see that females are associated with babies, and males are associated with guns. All powerful characters in cartoons have guns. If a female character in a cartoon has a gun, it also means that she is more powerful than other figures. In addition, news stories regarding stray bullets are widely covered by the media. The media, which plays a key role in perpetuating traditional beliefs, should be careful, and it should only serve to show this tradition’s disadvantages,” Bayraktar explained.
Guns should not be encouraged as symbol of power
Bayraktar also spoke about the unfortunate results of firing bullets for the sake of entertainment. Stating that a growing number of people are killed as a result of celebratory gunfire in Turkey, she said if a stray bullet kills a person, it is not possible for the person who fired the gun not to have a guilty conscience, adding that people should discontinue the practice of celebratory gunfire.
In July, a stray bullet shot in celebration of a sünnet (circumcision) ceremony in the Central Anatolian province of Niğde killed a 12-year-old girl. The girl, Fatma Demir, was hit in the head when a group of people at the party began shooting in celebration of the ceremony in the town of Edikli. The Demir family was devastated following the loss of their daughter.
Doğan Özkan, a conscientious objector, thinks that restricting gun ownership is necessary to prevent similar incidents from happening. Highlighting that guns are frequently used in Turkish TV series or films as symbols of power, Özkan stated that guns should not be encouraged by the mass media as an indication of manliness.
“Turkey’s indoor smoking ban implemented last year was a hot topic of debate among the public. However, it is a fact that not smoking has recently become a new trend among the public. Just as the smoking ban has been preventing people from smoking and being exposed to smoke, the government can prohibit individuals from owning guns to prevent accidents caused by stray bullets, which end with the death or injury of innocent people. Prohibiting individual gun ownership may create debate among the public at first, but will be a normal thing after a while, like the smoking ban,” Özkan affirms, underlining that the public will prefer the security of life without firearms.
Özkan also criticized the firearms industry, saying the buyers are allowed to pay for guns in installments, and that various vendors organize sales promotions to attract people’s attention. He added that nearly all people are currently aware of the fact that guns no longer promise increased security.