Mounting insecurity stirs need for private gun ownership
Ayokunle Adedeji, a businessman resides in a three-bedroom apartment in the Iyana Ipaya area of Lagos State. In five years, the father of four has been a victim of armed robbery attack thrice and the trauma looms large each night he shuts the door for a well-deserved rest.
For now, all the burglar proof fitted round the apartment make no meaning to him because all three times his household has been robbed, the robbers come with equipment to create a passage for themselves whilst he is fast asleep with his family members.
“Officially and unofficially, I have tried severally to get a gun with which I can defend my family when those criminals come calling, but all to no avail,” he lamented.
“The last time, I even went back to my state of origin where I am well known to continue the process, but even after spending some money, the Police always comes up with one issue or the other all in a bid to get more money from you. It got to a point that I was informed by someone that I should apply for a double-barrel riffle to shoot games as a hobby, after which I can buy a pistol for myself in the black market. All these steps are in a bid to protect myself against criminals,” he said.
Like Adedeji, Alphonsus Uket, a Calabar, Cross River State resident would love to own a gun, with which he would “take down any marauder” when the opportunity presents itself.
As a civil servant, Uket says he feels very bad when criminals swoop on hard-working people and dispossess them of their valuables simply because they (robbers) are armed with guns.
As a matter of fact, he thinks the government is being unfair to law-abiding citizens for making firearm acquisition such an arduous task, while scumbags brandish sophisticated riffles, with which they maim and kill law-abiding citizens.
This explains why he thinks: “The Federal Government should make it easy for citizens to acquire weapon to protect themselves against criminal elements in the society.
With the proliferation of illicit arms and ammunition, and the attendant spike in cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and sundry criminal activities in the country, many think it would be a wise idea for government to make it less cumbersome for decent and respected members of the public to obtain firearm licences with ease, contrary to the tedious procedure that currently obtains.
Interestingly, not many people are fully aware of the procedure to obtain license to bear firearms, even though this is clearly stated even on the website of the Nigeria Police Force.
According to the Chairman, American Society For Industrial Security (ASIS) International, Lagos Chapter, Oluwaseyi Adetayo, the law is very straightforward on issues pertaining to owning, or obtaining licence to bear firearms.
“The criteria for approving applications for firearm licence includes, the purpose of the firearm, and the class (it must not be a rifle, must not be a fully automatic weapon or a pistol). It also includes the mental health of the person seeking the licence. This is where psychological evaluation is carried out, and the profile of the individual taken into consideration,” said the Lagos State-based security expert.
“It is expected that appropriate authorities should conduct background checks on applicants, in order to ensure that people with criminal antecedents, or those who flare up easily, or are prone to violence are not allowed to carry guns. Same applies to those below 18 years. Ordinarily, young ones from 18 years are trained to handle firearm because soldiers at that age can carry firearms as well,” Adetayo added.
He maintained that it was imperative that the mental state of an individual possessing firearm be periodically evaluated, stressing that while some people’s mental state might be the same overtime, others may develop psychological conditions, which if they had manifested earlier, would have denied them the right to own the firearms.
“That is why you sometimes see someone picking up a gun and shooting people randomly. It is because some people’s mental condition deteriorate that they are ineligible to own guns. Having said that, let me add that there are also some people with good antecedents, but who later, for reasons best known to them, use guns legally acquired for illegal purposes. There are also others who become careless overtime, including making it easy for young children to have access to the guns and use them wrongly.”
Asked if a gun can actually protect its owner in an increasingly unsecure environment like ours, Adetayo responded in the affirmative.“Yes it can. Criminals and armed robbers like taking people by surprise. So, you have to be prepared for them not to catch you unawares. Proficiency in weapon handling is paramount. Just firing a shot can scare armed robbers, when they know that the person is fully armed. However, there are daredevil armed robbers that come in large numbers and are equally well trained in weapon usage. This class of criminals are usually ready to engage the owner of the weapon until they kill him because of the simple fact that counter attack is a game of numbers, a game of chance and proficiency.”
The security expert laments that sometimes, even law enforcement officers fall short of the minimum requirement to bear arms because of the conditions that they have subjected themselves to, adding that a lot of serving policemen and military officers are in need of mental health evaluation.
He said: “Most times, you see some officers that are so drunk carrying high-calibre weapons. This is a very sad development and a danger waiting to happen. Even though such situations cannot be entirely ruled out in the society, no matter how well structured the society is, but all we need to do is to continue to review the process of gun control in the country.
“Government should step up efforts geared at mopping up illegal arms in circulation and ensuring that those who are not supposed to carry weapons are stripped of such, especially with the advent of vigilante groups in some states, where the government procures pump actions riffles and other high-calibre weapons for these people, some of whom are abusing the firearms,” he stated.
In conclusion, he suggested that: “Proper arrangement should be made in such a way that people are properly recruited, armed and then proper control measures are put in place. People should be made to follow due process and tutored properly before they can own firearms.”
Akintayo Olufemi, a psychologist and lecturer at the University of Lagos, is of the view that one of the most important factor that should be considered on the issue of arms bearing by private individuals, or military personnel is concerned is how responsible and mentally stable the individual in question is, and not really the age.
“It is very important that before one is licenced to bear arms, he/she must have gone through some psychological tests, and this brings me to the issue of involving psychologists in recruitment into uniformed organisations that carry guns.
“Globally, the recruitment process into the military services entails undergoing a series of psychological training, and if it is discovered that the person is not psychological okay to bear arms, he/she is redeployed to another unit.
“It is just like the process for employing an accountant. If during psychological tests, it is discovered that the individual has the tendency to steal money, the institution would either do away with him/her, or send such person to a department, where he/she would not have access to money.
“In developed countries, police officers and other military personnel are rigorously trained and the trainings are done regularly. The tests are also conducted regularly to know if those trained are really improving, or have developed new issues along the line. The same rigour is applied, when private citizens are seeking licence for gun ownership,” the university teacher asserted.
According to the Firearms Act CAP F28, LAN 2004 (third edition of 2011): “No person shall have in his possession or under his control any (personal) firearm of one of the categories specified in Part 2 of the schedule to this Act, except with a licence granted in respect thereof by the Inspector General of Police, which licence shall be granted or refused in accordance with principles decided upon by the President.
The Act in the sub-head, “Licensing,” further adds that notwithstanding the provision of Subsection (1) of this section, no licence or permit under the provisions of this Act shall be granted, if there is reason to believe that the applicant or holder of the licence is under the age of 17, is of unsound mind, is not fit to have possession of the firearm in question on account of defective eyesight, is a person of intemperate habits, or has during the previous five years been convicted of an offence involving violence or the threat of violence.
In the area of safe custody of firearms, the Act maintains that: The owner of a firearm in respect of which a licence or permit has been granted, in accordance with the provisions of this Act shall be responsible for the safe custody of the firearm to which the licence or permit relates,” adding that, “The owner of the firearm, in the case of loss, theft or destruction of such firearm, shall notify such loss, theft or destruction and the circumstances thereof within 14 days of being aware thereof to the authority, who issued the licence or permit, and shall at the same time surrender the licence or permit for such action, as such authority may consider necessary.