Several loopholes in tracking the misuse of personal weapons suggest the government has failed to systematise the licencing of arms and ammunition and their monitoring.
Though the number of licensed guns has increased remarkably of late, two responsible authorities—District Administration Offices (DAO) and the Ministry of Home of Affairs—are unaware of the status of thousands of weapons legally owned by individuals.
Once a person receives the licence, the government has no mechanism to check where and when the arm was used. Though the Arms and Ammunitions Act-1963 requires licence renewal within 35 days of the end of the fiscal year, no office in the country knows whether or not the individual has renewed the licence.
“A person who receives the licence from Kathmandu can renew it in Jumla,” said Kathmandu Chief District Officer Ratna Raj Pandey. “It is almost impossible to track whether the licence-holder has renewed the permission since we don’t have a proper network of DAOs across the country.”
The provision of making bullets available to gun owners is horrifying considering that the government has no data where they are used. One has to apply to authorities for ammunition import as they desire but is not required to mention where they used those obtained earlier.
Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, joint secretary at the Home Ministry, admits no proper monitoring takes place, increasing the risk of misuse of the weapons. Of the total 34,468 licences issued till date, 13,069 were from the Kathmandu DAO alone. However, no owner has been blacklisted for not renewing or misusing the weapon. Nor has a single licence been seized till date. Flouting a provision of the Act that bars authorities from issuing more than two licences to an individual, the Department of Commerce record shows Chandra Bahadur Gurung in the fiscal year 2008/09 was authorised to carry three arms.
“It’s a matter of serious concern that we are not organised well enough to track how the weapons are being used,” said Dhakal, who has served as the Kathmandu CDO.
According to the Arms and Ammunitions Act-1963, one wishing to keep a weapon legally is required to apply to the DAO justifying his/her reason for the possession. One also has to produce a medical certificate to prove mental and physical well-being. Following the application, the DAO calls a meeting of the District Security Committee and recommends the ministry for the permission. After the verification, the Home Ministry recommends to the Department of Commerce to permit the import of the licenced weapon. At present, the government allows two categories of guns—12 bore and 20 gauge shot guns. However, many people still hold small arms such as pistol and revolver that were licensed in various periods including the 2005 royal takeover.
Licence holders on rise
People seeking licence to own weapon justifying threats to their lives have increased over the years. In FY 2008/09, 80 people received licence for a gun, according to the DAO, Kathmandu. It increased to 93 in FY 2009/10 and the number climbed to 108 in 2010/11. In the current fiscal year, some 56 guns have been permitted to be kept by individuals.
“Most people seek security by complaining that they fear for their life,” said CDO Pandey.
Most of the high-ranking retired army officials, security personnel and leaders are also found to have applied for the licence. The guns are imported mostly from countries such as Italy, US and Singapore, without paying taxes, according to the Commerce Department.
Posted on: 2012-02-06 09:54