Gun owners refuse licence renewal - 1.1m illicit firearms in country

BY: Mary Mensah
Mr Jones Applerh (middle), the Executive Secretary of the Small Arms Commission stressing a point during the burning of small arms at the Police Depot in Accra. Picture: ESTHER ADJEI
Mr Jones Applerh (middle), the Executive Secretary of the Small Arms Commission stressing a point during the burning of small arms at the Police Depot in Accra. Picture: ESTHER ADJEI

Out of about 1.2 million holders of small firearms registered by the Ghana Police Service, only 40,000 of them renew their licences every year.

This implies that more than 1.1 million unlicensed firearms are circulating in the country unlawfully.

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The number excludes those that have not been registered at all.

The Minister of the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, made this known in a speech read on his behalf at the sixth weapon destruction programme, during which more than 2,700 illicit small arms seized from crime scenes and individuals were destroyed in Accra yesterday.

The destruction of the 2,700 weapons brings the total number of small firearms destroyed in the country since 2005 to 10,052.


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Unregistered firearms

Mr Dery said it was noteworthy that unregistered firearms be considered illicit firearms, for which reason holders of such firearms should be arrested and made to face the full rigours of the law.

He said findings of a research conducted by the Small Arms Commission and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) on the renewal rate were very worrying.

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Mr Dery said the government intended to make the country peaceful, safe and secure to promote development and make Ghana an investment destination free of illicit small arms.

Owning guns

He said many Ghanaians owned firearms, while others were desirous of owning them, without considering the consequences and the responsibilities that came along with such acquisition.

“Keeping firearms has a lot of responsibilities and challenges. You could actually hurt or kill yourself with it. Your family, loved ones and friends could fall victim to it,” he said.

Earlier in a welcome address, the Board Chairman of the Small Arms Commission, Reverend Paul Frimpong Manso, had said conflicts on the African continent and elsewhere were perpetrated using small arms, leaving devastating effects on people.

Proactive measures

He said the threat of the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons in communities required that proactive measures be taken constantly to prevent their easy circulation and accessibility, otherwise such a situation could fuel armed violence, conflicts and human rights violations.

Rev. Frimpong Manso said the destruction of the weapons was one of the measures used in making sure that illicit arms seized from criminals were eliminated to ensure that there was no chance for them to be recycled in society.

He said the government was very committed to the security of the country and also took seriously its obligations under the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the UN Firearms Protocols which required state parties to destroy obsolete and illicit arms seized or confiscated.

Illicit small arms

“Illicit small arms should not be entertained in our society and so we should not be passive when we chance upon such weapons or remain silent when we know people dealing in them in our communities,” he said.

Rev. Frimpong Manso called on the media and members of the public to rally behind the security agencies and the commission to minimise the threats posed by illicit arms in the country to enhance peace and security and accelerated growth.