Over the years Namibia has seen a steady escalation in violent crimes ranging from suicide to so-called crimes of passion that have resulted in hundreds of lives lost. Many of these incidents are attributed to the fact that too many people can too easily easily buy guns of their choice.
Now proposed new amendments to the Arms and Ammunition Act are expected to make it harder to acquire a firearm license, especially small arms, like pistols. Amongst others, the new amendments will require background checks of applicants and will raise the minimum age for acquiring a firearm license from 18 to 25 years.
In an exclusive interview with New Era Inspector-General of the Namibian police Lieutenant Sebastian Ndeitunga spoke about how far the process of amending the current Arms and Ammunition Act is and what the loopholes are in terms of gun control measures. He said the process is at an advanced stage, as the draft Bill is already back from the legal drafters. Once the proposed new amendments are finalised they will be tabled in parliament by Minister of Safety and Security (Rtd) Major-General Charles Namoloh.
“We have made proposals to amend the current Arms and Ammunition Act. We’re busy with it before it is tabled in parliament. This month we will have a final cross-check, because it is back from the legal drafters. We want our honourable Members [of Parliament] to critically look at these amendments. We’ll be happy if they see that there is a loophole [and a need] to close it,” he said.
Currently if a background check is conducted on a person and shows that the applicant does not have a previous criminal record, or their fingerprints do not show they previously committed any crime, and if they are mentally stable, they are cleared to buy a gun.
“If you don’t have a criminal record you will be given a firearm, while sometimes you’re not having good behaviour in the community,” Ndeitunga remarked.
He says the main reason for the amendments is that the process of acquiring a firearm is open and relaxed at present and it cannot be right for weapons to be dished out in that manner.
He also noted that the amendments entail the police doing background checks to determine whether a person is eligible to possess a gun.
There have also been several incidents where police officers, who are mandated to ensure law and order, took service firearms home when off-duty, which they used to unlawfully shoot and even kill civilians.
Ndeitunga blamed a lack of supervision as the main cause. The police manual is clear that firearms are booked out for duty and booked in while off duty, he said.
“We always emphasise to all supervisors that they should comply with the police manual and ensure that firearms are booked in and not taken home, unless a member has applied to the Office of the Inspector General that his life is in danger, because of the vicinity where he lives.
“It can only be authorised for self-defense. We have incidences of police officers, who abused this [safety measure]. We will not allow this type of behaviour of police officers going home with firearms without authorisation,” he warned.
It is expected things will be done differently in future, as the police will involve the wider community that surrounds the applicant to determine whether such applicant is a responsible citizen and eligible to be granted a license for a lethal weapon.
According to the Arms and Ammunition Act, a person may not keep more than one firearm of the same caliber, although hunters and farmers are allowed to keep four different types of firearms.
Individuals are also not allowed to keep more than 100 bullets per firearm.