In its efforts to popularise and correct misconceptions around the just legislated Sierra Leone Arms and Ammunition Act of 2012, the Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms (SLANSA) in collaboration with the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA) and the Action on Armed Violence yesterday dialogued with Western Area stakeholders to broaden citizens' understanding of the Act.
Chairing the forum, Commissioner of the National Commission for Democracy (NCD), Georgette De Mark, gave a brief background of SLANSA, noting that the organisation - which was established in October 2001 - espouses the value of human rights, human security and good governance within the context of addressing issues of armed violence across the country.
She said the forum was meant to widen citizens' understanding of the 2012 Arms and Ammunition Act which was passed in parliament to regulate the manufacture, possession and transfer of small arms and light weapons across the country.
Director of SLANSA, Mrs. Florella Hazeley, said the onus rests on her organisation to popularise the Act so as to correct the series of misconceptions that surrounded its passing into law, noting that the law to possess small arms is not a new phenomenon, but one that was in practice since 1955.
She said the 2012 Arms and Ammunition Act was passed by the Sierra Leone parliament to repeal and replace the 1955 Arms and Ammunition Act which authorities thought became obsolete and should be replaced with one that would stand the test of time.
"People made lots of negative comments when the Arms and Ammunition Act was passed in parliament," observed the SLANSA Director. "We are taken this move to correct people's misconceptions and widen citizens' understanding about the Act. The Act is not meant for election purpose but to regulate the possession of small arms across the country."
According to Madam Hazeley, the bill was developed since 2006 but only passed into law in 2012, adding that the law would help to enhance human security across the country. She said there are varied laws on small arms and light weapons across the West African sub-region and that governments within the region adopted the ECOWAS Convention which regulates the sale, possession and transfer of small arms and light weapons.
Head of police media and public relations, ASP Ibrahim Samura, said the Act is very much important and would go a long way in protecting lives and properties across the country. He said the lawful possession of small arms would help the police in terms of investigating arms related cases, but cautioned that people must be responsible as the police would arrest an individual in case of misuse.
"The lawful possession of small arms is necessary but we are at the same time worried about the misuse. We are going to arrest any individual who would willfully misuse small arms," he cautioned.
Meanwhile, similar dialogue forums were being held in all district headquarter towns across the country with the Western Area climaxing the exercise.