20 January 2014

Tanzania: New, Tough Firearm Sale, Possession Laws On Target

DISTURBED by a recent spate of indiscriminate killings using legally owned firearms, the government will soon introduce a new legislation to strictly regulate and control importation, sales and ownership of guns.

Although it is not yet established whether the new Act will phase out the existing Arms and Ammunition Act of 2007, the legislation will address the shortcomings in the current Act used by gun owners to use them in criminal acts, kill themselves and innocent people around them and generally disrupt peace in the society.

The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Mr Isaya Mngulu, told the 'Daily News' that the process towards the establishment of the new Act was at advanced stages.

"We are experiencing a lot of incidents as a result of misuse of firearms leading to a number of criminal acts.

The government is now working on the matter by coming up with an Act that will strictly regulate their uses," he said.

According to the DCI, who has just assumed office following the retirement of his predecessor, Mr Robert Manumba, the new Act will effectively deal with the current trend where guns are haphazardly used both by criminals and legal possessors.

Commenting on police experience in combating crime, the Operations and Training Commissioner of the Police Force, Mr Paul Chagonja, said apart from the coming law, there are a lot of strategies to deal with the inclination.

He said evidence has revealed there is massive illegal trade of firearms and that the Police Force is keenly following up their routes at the borders and inside the country.

According to 2011 records, the annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to Tanzania is reported by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to be around 374,336 US dollars (about 600m/-).

Studies, according to him, have shown that illegal trade of firearms is rampant in Kagera, Kigoma, Rukwa and Katavi regions, which share common borders with countries that have a long history of civil wars.

Illegal possessors of the firearms easily find their way to larger cities like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and Mbeya although many parts of the country except some major cities "are still safe on average."

"We have all the data on how the trade is taking place and our forensic unit has all the information on the malpractice. It is just a matter of time before criminals using them and offenders misusing them are dealt with accordingly," Mr Chagonja asserted.

Some of the measures as soon as the new Act is in place will be intensive screening of the people applying for firearms.

He said detecting one's character and behaviour once in possession of guns will remain a daunting task to the Police Force, but added that precautionary measures will still be taken before one is licensed to own a gun.

Under current procedures and law, only licensed gun owners in Tanzania are lawfully allowed to acquire, posses and transfer a firearm or ammunition, while their applicants are not required or tasked to prove genuine reasons for possessing them.

However, under the same procedures, third party character references for each gun licence applicants are not required.

The number of firearms/and/or rounds of ammunition voluntarily surrendered for destruction in a recent arms amnesty and collection programme is reported to be 2,772, according to 2008 statistics.

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