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House passes tougher legislation on firearm control, administration

House passes tougher legislation on firearm control, administration

The House of People’s Representatives (HPR) has passed a bill on firearm control and administration with the introduction of tougher provisions legislating on illicit firearm use and trafficking.

Approved on Thursday and cited as the “Firearm Administration and Control Proclamation,” it was first presented last April, before MPs referred the draft to be reviewed by the Foreign Relation and Peace Standing Committee and the Law, Justice and Administration Standing Committee.

The newly revised bill is said to have been amended recognizing that firearm control is necessary to maintain peace and security of the country and ensure the rights and security of citizens and the public at large.

Presenting the report, Tesfaye Daba, the head of Foreign Relation and Peace Standing Committee told the House that the objective of the bill is to help formalize gun ownership in the country.

He said the latest bill was brought on the right time due to the nations need to address the critical challenges posed by the threat of firearms, which threatens the peace and security of the country.

According to Tesfaye, the revised proclamation further provides for each region to stipulate the legal age for gun ownership, while limiting the number of firearms an individual can own, to one.

It was also noted that it has been found necessary to have firearms in the hands of individuals, which could be utilized to maintain the peace and security of the community. In addition to this, it was deemed necessary to determine the legislation gaps not covered by the existing laws and practices, and create a consistent system.

According to the new bill, the Federal Police Commission is the Supervising institution with specific duties to issue a license, control arms trafficking, inspection and administration of fire arms. In addition, it can also delegate regional police commissions to undertake the power and duties given to it as may be necessary, follow and control their performance based on a system that it lays down.

Furthermore, the bill designates specific conditions under which firearm license is given to individual applicants as well as organizations. Accordingly, firearms license can be given to private individuals, only one small or one light firearm, while details off and the amount of bullets to be authorized will be determined by a directive to be issued by the Supervising Institution by taking into account pastoralists, farmers and situation in Cities.

According to the provisions, this proclamation is not applicable on the National Defense Forces (NDF) and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Article 27 of the latest proclamation dictates, by which the Defense Force and National information and security Service will determine by themselves the type, amount and use of firearm. Nevertheless, they are required to work in cooperation with the supervising institution on issues which they mutually find necessary.

Tesfaye told MPs the proclamation will help control illegal weapons trafficking and control them only through concerned administrations.

The government, for its complacency to enforce the rule of law and the upsurge in illicit firearms circulation, has been criticized by lawmakers and particularly by the members of the Peace, Democracy and Defense Standing Committees. The members, who have met with Police Commissioners from regional states as well as from the two Federal City Administrations [Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa] in June of last year, have repeatedly expressed in strong terms, for the executive branch to take the blame for failing to ensure the rule of law and order.

According to the new bill, punishments can range from rigorous to simple imprisonment. Furthermore, a fine ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 birr is also included.

Under the existing law, illicit or unlawful possession of guns is a publishable crime by 3 to 15 years in prison. Amending this, now, the bill holds a tougher punishment raising it to 8 to 20 years in prison.

Gun Policy.org, an institution that publishes evidence from hundreds of jurisdictions, allowing country-by-country comparisons of armed violence and firearm regulation around the world, indicated that there are more than 875 million firearms in the world, of which 75 percent of them are in the hands of civilians. Guns outnumber passenger vehicles by 253 million, or by 29 percent.

According to organization, the estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Ethiopia in 2017 reaches 377,000, which is equal to 4 firearms per 1000 people, whereas, in the US, there are about 393,347,000 guns owned by civilians. Accordingly, Ethiopia is ranked 101 among 178 countries.

The corresponding figure for the US is that there are 1010 guns for every 1000 people.

The House, after around a 2 hour long debate, has approved the proclamation with a majority vote, two voting against it, and four abstaining.