Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya: Lawless Libya Criminalises Gun Ownership

Tripoli — Libya's General National Congress (GNC) on Sunday (December 15th) passed a law criminalising possession of all kinds of weapons, light and heavy, as well as explosives.

The new legislation states that if weapons are not handed over within 90 days, the person will be liable to a prison sentence between three to 10 years and a fine of up to 20,000 Libyan dinars. A financial incentive to be assessed by the defence ministry will also be granted to those who hand over their weapons.

MP Asma Sriba pointed out the need to be strict when applying this law. She demanded the application of the maximum penalties on those who do not abide by this law.

Sriba also urged members of the military and police to commit to work, referring to the number of them who are not occupying their positions.

However, many Libyans remain sceptical that the measure can be applied without bolstering state security forces.

"This law cannot be implemented; it is impossible because weapons are widespread and not only light ones but heavy ones too," military and strategy expert Dhawi Bouras said during a discussion.

"This necessitates collecting tanks, missiles and all other equipment from all over. How can we integrate these weapons into the army? This requires a bold and wise resolution," he noted.

Bouras added, "A number of individuals have collections of arms, and even financial incentives are not enough, cannot curb and cannot compensate. So how are we going to compensate for a missile or a tank, which is in fact the property of the Libyan state?"

He pointed out that armed brigades were not all integrated into the Libyan army and some battalions have not yet fully vacated Tripoli.

Sadiq Warfali, a public sector employee in Benghazi, echoed the sentiment: "This law cannot be implemented in light of the chaos and the proliferation of arms, which are estimated at more than six million weapons."

"This law is stillborn and an orphan," remarked Leila Ahmed, a central post employee. "I do not think that it will be implemented. In fact, a strong civil society and the intervention of elders and tribal leaders can reduce this phenomenon."

Others interviewed by Magharebia backed the new act, urging authorities to do more to rein in the violence.

"It is long overdue," said Mohamed Teer, a high school history teacher in Benghazi. "I also demand the implementation of the proposal of former interior minister Ashour Shuwail that pertains to activating the police force and to take legal action against those who violate the law."

"It is difficult to collect arms but it can be done with financial incentives from the government," said Umm Mohamed, a Tripoli housewife and mother of five boys.

But, she added, surprised, "Who will implement this decision when Prime Minister Zidan himself was kidnapped? This law is not convincing so as to be implemented. We have seen cases of escape from prisons under the control of the government."

Sheikh Abdel Mawla Zayed from Tripoli said, "The most important thing is to strengthen the army, deliver the headquarters of the armed militias to the Libyan army, and collect their weapons in order to apply the law pertaining to the handover of weapons to the military."

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