LET’S face it, guns are changing literary everything in our society. Actually, owning a gun in Zambia is slowly transforming into another sure source of violence and death in our once ‘peaceful’ society.
There is little doubt now that the increasing number of guns, especially small ones, in people’s hands, is contributing to the increased number of injuries and deaths amongst our people.
Some people are of the view that, the greatest challenge in owning a gun is that you are almost always tempted to discharge it once in a while, and most likely at a human being.
This, of course, also raises questions about the safety of the public from the guns carried around by our own police officers because, in as much as they may have been sensitized on firearm discipline, they still remain human and also subject to the temptations to discharge it once in a while.
Infact, while our police service grapples with trying to control their proliferation in our society, especially through giving amnesty to persons willing to surrender them, firearms continue to fill our graveyards in ever-increasing numbers.
It is common knowledge that the abuse of weapons diverts scarce government resources from health, education and other key sectors to public security. It discourages economic growth and deprives society of the skills and talents of the victims of guns.
Virginia Gamba, the former director of the Arms management Programme of the South African Institute for Security Studies (ISS) once observed that, “The proliferation of light weapons in Africa poses a major threat to development.”
She said, “Their low cost, ease of use and availability may escalate conflicts, … intensify violence and impact of crime, impede economic and social development and hinder the development of social stability, democracy and good governance.”
The latest international report on firearms, published by the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies (Switzerland), nine in every 100 people in Zambia own guns, and that the about 230,000 guns in private hands, 86,000 of them were illegally owned (unregistered).
The situation is worrisome and as a country, it is high time we seriously acted to contain the situation. Efforts by the Zambia police to get more guns surrendered are commendable but we now need to stiffen our gun laws so that we restrict the number of people who can own guns, and equally seriously punish those found holding them illegally.
The timer to act to stop guns proliferation is now before more of our people are either maimed or slain.