SILVER LININGThe government and firearms control [Archives:2007/1046/Opinion]

April 30 2007

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Last week, the government decided to close down all firearm shops that spread all over the country. This sounds great and has delighted everybody aspiring to see a country ruled by law and order. However, is the government able to do that? This is the question. It is easy for our government to draft nice laws and take serious decisions but it is difficult for it to put them into action.

The government has failed several times to get the parliament debate and endorse a stalled draft law controlling the ownership and use of firearms. The influential tribal figures at the parliament and outside, mainly Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmer crippled all efforts to get it passed. Last year, the ruling party caucus managed to put the draft law collecting dust for years on the agenda of the parliament but nothing happened since then as the action was just a quick response to the kidnapping of the German and Italian tourists.

The ministry of interior used to allege that it could not control the firearms as it had no legal instrument to do that and insisted that the new draft law was meant to give it enough privilege and power to control this chaos of firearms. The ministry already approved a new by-law, which is a relative attempt to legalize the chaos of gunned escorts, so as to organize the escorts of high ranking government officials.

I do not know how the government can control and close down the firearms shops without having the power of the law it used to ask for. I understand if the ruling party and its government are serious about this headache of firearms carrying and using, it should start from the parliament and get the draft law approved. This is really the first step that will demonstrate whether the government is serious about this problem or not.

I believe it is not that difficult for the government to get the draft law endorsed by the parliament, in which the ruling party has the majority. Once it is endorsed, the government will have a legal instrument to use. I know some might allege that laws are never enacted or respected and thus fruitless. Here lies the trick. If the government is serious about the control of weapons, it has first to respect the law itself and then moves to enact it on the ground. Once the citizens feel the government respects the law, they will have to respect that as they have a model then. They just need to sense equality and no one is superior upon the law.

The government decision concerning the firearms shop closure has been taken just one day after the Investment Opportunities Exploration Conference wrapped up. It wanted to show its seriousness in providing a good environment for investments.

Truly, it is a good tactic for the government to bring confidence into the hearts of investors. However, the government measures, in this respect, imply that the control of firearms should not be taken haphazardly. Further, those measures pinpoint that actions on the ground should be based on legal and institutionalized procedures, which would prove our capacity to attract foreign investments, rather than random decisions.

Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.