The National Small Arms and Light Weapons Commission has initiated a process to review the Arms and Ammunitions Act, 1972, to address the shortfalls of the 47-year document.
Among changes being considered, is the introduction of stricter sanctions regime, as part of efforts to nib in the bud the proliferation of illicit arms and its repercussion on security.
Mr Gyebi Asante, a Senior Programmes Officer of the commission told the Ghanaian Times in an exclusive interview on Monday that current sanctions were not punitive although being enforced.
He said under the existing law, a person caught in possession of illegal arms or smuggling them, when found guilty, could face a maximum of five years prison sentence or pay a GH¢12, 000 fine or both.
Additionally, he said both those who possess and smuggled illicit arms had same sanction, a regime, which he said was not good enough due to the difference in severity of crimes.
“I think there should be stricter punishment regime. It should be higher to deter people from the illegal acts,” he said with conviction that it would change the status quo.
Aside the sanctions, Mr Asante said other issues being considered included the introduction of better registration and monitoring regime in line with international best practices.
He said the process started last year with the commission sending some proposals to the Ministry of the Interior, in addition to the holding of initial stakeholder consultations to elicit inputs.
Also being reviewed is Act 736 of 2007, which established the commission to properly situate the commission in the arms regulatory framework to enable it become an effective tool in rolling back the illegal practice.
Although he could not provide the number of guns currently in circulation, because registration of guns was not the commission’s responsibility, Mr Asante made reference to the 2014 National Small Arms Baseline Survey launched in 2016, which reported 2.3 million small arms were in circulation.
Out of the figure, he said the 1.1 million were illegally in possession of civilians while about 1.2 million of them had been registered by the Police Firearms Bureau to civilians in 2014.
He said more than 4,000 illegal guns had been destroyed in the period of three years, since 2016. Out of the figure, 1,300 were burnt in July 2016 with almost 2,880, confiscated in 2017 and 2018 set ablaze last November.
The firearms and light weapons, comprised locally made single and double-barrelled shotguns, locally made and imported pistols, pump action guns and local mortars.
If the 4,000 illegal guns destroyed so far are deducted from the number quoted in the report, it would mean that there are about a million more illegal arms still in circulation.
Mr Asante said more illegal guns were expected to be burnt this year as part of efforts to curb the proliferation of illegal arms in the country.
He said majority of the illegal guns were confiscated by the police from criminals and draftsmen across the country and kept in trust for the commission to collect and destroy.
He said the commission would continue to discharge its mandate of awareness creation among the citizenry on the dangers in having illicit arms and blacksmiths to stop illegal manufacture of guns.
He advocated the strengthening of security at the country’s borders with the introduction of state of the art equipment to prevent the smuggling of guns into the country.
Mr Asante advised anyone who needed to own a gun or import some would have to go through the appropriate procedure as failure to do same constituted criminality.
BY JONATHAN DONKOR