Some parliamentarians have raised concerns over a move to relax restriction on individual acquisition and sale of fire arms in the country, saying it could constitute a security threat.
The MPs earlier this week approved the basis for debate of a Bill seeking to amend and complete the law number 33/2009 of 08/11/2009 relating to arms, and to move it from Organic Law to Penal Code.
But lawmakers warned that loosening laws on individual ownership and sale of firearms as it is in some western countries could pose a security threat.
Evode Uwizeyimana, the state minister for Constitutional and Legal affairs who presented the Bill to Chamber of Deputies, said some articles had been removed completely while new elements were introduced to the draft.
For instance, a paragraph was added on article 12 of the Bill setting requirements for individuals to sell arms.
The new paragraph states that for a person to be authorised to sell arms, they shall submit a request letter to the minister in charge of Rwanda National Police and attach a copy of their identity card or their passport; be a person of integrity; be at least twenty-one years of age; produce a legal commercial registration; with no record of collaboration with terrorist organisations or individual terrorists; and be authorised by the Cabinet.
Regarding the requirements for the acquisition of a licence for firearm possession and carriage, not much has been changed from the current law, only the person – Commissioner General of the National Police who issues licence has been replaced by the institution, which is Rwanda National Police.
In article 3, the Bill says that a person seeking a licence for possession and carriage of a firearm shall submit a letter to the Rwanda National Police justifying their application for firearm possession and carriage, be a person of integrity, and be at least twenty-one years of age.
It also says he/she must not have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment equal to or exceeding six (6) months; and show a legally recognised licence for firearm possession and carriage for a foreigner who is in possession thereof.
MP Suzanne Mukayijore wondered whether the ministry considered some measures to prevent crimes which could arise if restrictions on trading and owning arms are loosened.
“In developed countries they easily give people the right to own arms but they have failed to control them. People are killing others, especially the youth. Did you think about preventive measures?” she asked.
MP Constance Rwaka Mukayuhi asked if there are some individuals who apply for acquisition for a licence to own a firearm.
“We know we have security, is there any individuals applying for the licence? If yes, which reasons are they giving and which types of arms are they requesting?” she asked.
In response, minister Uwizeyimana argued that not all killings witnessed in some Western countries are committed by people who own guns.
There are tight conditions and regulations which every person who asks to own an arm has to fulfill and observe, he said.
He added that besides, arms are specifically registered with their bullets and they can be easily identified in case they are used.
“Arms are not like beans or other usual products to trade. Before people are given licence, they are trained and given skills on how to behave, and they have to present a certificate of proof of how to use them. Just look at people playing Karate, they are cool-headed people who don’t pick up quarrels over petty issues, even if they know how to defend themselves, just because they abide to their code of conduct,” he said.