RECENT State campaign against illegal ownership of small firearms succeeded in impounding 304 guns. It is kudos for the Police Force.
The number of firearms found during the brief campaign must have shocked the nation. The find pointed to the stark reality that too many arms were in dangerous hands. In fact, armed banditry has escalated to alarming proportions in the last few months.
It is this nettling situation that has prompted the government to issue an ultimatum to holders of illegal and unregistered firearms to surrender them to the State immediately. The Police Force recorded a total of 876 criminal incidents between January and September, this year, in which small arms were used and 62 firearms were stolen.
So, after a brief lull, armed bandits are running riot once again. The government says that holders of illegal firearms have been given a grace period of one month during which all such guns should be surrendered. This is a generous offer to the gun holders, most of whom are underworld characters who operate in a shroud of secrecy.
Knowing what kind of morons armed bandits are, we do not expect them to walk into police stations round the country carrying guns for handover to the government. The Police Force should prepare for a fight if they are to impound any more illegal guns.
What the Police Force should do is mobilize good Samaritans to show its agents where illegal gun holders are located and, if possible, where they hide their arms. Bandits and other gun totters live in homes where it is difficult to hide their activities.
The State will be surprised by the scale of campaign success if it ropes in peace-loving members of the society in this noble crusade. The wananchi know most of the hardcore criminals and some of their secret banditry forays because they live in their midst.
It is imperative to mention here that small arms are not only used in stealing property. Guns are also used to commit mayhem when peace and tranquility are lost. In some countries, it is these arms that have been used to tear the social fabric apart.
These weapons are used to fuel crime and violence, displace people and undermine their rights. It has been determined that in the East African region, small arms and light weapons already constitute a serious threat to peace.
In some parts of the region they are a threat to reconciliation, safety, security and sustainable development. Tanzania must curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the nick of time -- before the situation becomes volatile.