‘Strengthen institutions to oversee small arms industry’

A think-tank group, Centre for Defence and Security (CDS), has reiterated its call on the government to establish strong institution and regulatory framework to oversee the small arms industry in Ghana in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.

According to the group, the current mandate of the Small Arms Commission, which was only an advisory body with limited scope needed urgent review of all existing laws on small arms to reflect international treaties and conventions on small arms and light weapons.

Additionally, it said the current legal arrangement which elected the Minister of the Interior as the person to oversee the gun industry in the country was ineffective.

This was contained in a statement signed and issued yesterday by Yaro Kasambata, Executive Director of the CDS, to commemorate the United Nations (UN) Day for the Destruction of Small Arms today.

The statement called for the establishment of a robust regulator with mandate to licence, monitor and regulate the movement and ownership of small arms.

“There is no regulatory framework that governs the qualification, justification and competence of civilian gun ownership in Ghana. There is no legally established institution that trains and certifies individual’s competence and suitability to own fire arms in the country. Without such a regulatory process, there is no way of telling the general suitability of persons who own guns in the country,” it stated.

Citing a 2014 baseline study from the Ghana National Commission on Small Arms (GNCSA), it stated that 2.3 million guns were in the hands of adult civilians out of which only 53% were registered with 47% unaccounted for while majority of licenses are not renewed annually as mandated by law.

“The quantity of guns in Ghana today is more than what is captured by current data. There are 2,500 gunsmiths in Ashanti Region, Bono, Bono East and Ahafo regions with annual capacity to manufacture more than 200,000 guns. Most of these guns feed the sub-regional markets and local clientele,” the statement said.

It noted that there was an established connection between proliferation of small arms and crime in the country, as 868 armed robberies were recorded between January and June 2019.

“Between June and December 2018, more than 1,100 armed robbery cases were recorded. Most of the weapons used in these armed robberies were unlicensed locally manufactured fire arms thereby making it difficult to trace their ownership,” it added.

The statement said the legal prohibition of locally made fire arms had not prevented the industry from thriving but had rather compelled gunsmiths to operate secretly with presence in all regions of the country.

“Year on year, the capacity of the local gunsmith improves with ability now to copy imported AK47 rifles at satisfactory quality. The guns they produce are used by armed robbers, some vigilante groups, illegal gold miners, land-guards and also fuels tribal and communal conflicts.

Describing the global small arms industry as strong, it noted that data by OEF Research indicated that there were 640 million small arms and light weapons circulating globally with an estimation of 100 million small arms being located in Africa and 30 million found in sub-Saharan Africa.

BY TIMES REPORTER

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