The Iraqi government has decided to allow civilians the right to own guns and rifles, sparking uproar in the country, with some people saying that the decision will unleash more violence, while others welcome it.
On May 6, the Iraqi government’s spokesman Ali Al-Dabagh announced in a statement that the government has decided “to allow one gun or riffle per Iraqi family but the owner must register the weapon with the nearest police station.”
The exceptional decision does have a fair share of supporters who say owning a weapon is part of their right to self-defense against especially in a country mired in violence and with fragile security.
However, opponents describe the decision as the Iraqi government’s failure to tighten its grip on security and to improve the overall situation in Iraq. Critics have warned of dire repercussion such as increase of violence and sounded an alarm of “militarization of the Iraqi society.”
While the decision is new, “Iraqi families’ owning a gun or riffle has long been common in the country,” the Baghdad-based political analyst, Omar al-Mashhadani, told Al Arabiya.
Mashhadani reiterating the government’s stance said the reason behind the decision is to be able to control the number of weapons owned by the Iraqi citizens when registering the items.
“Even during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, American troops did not confiscate weapons when they searched Iraqi homes, but on the condition that the weapon did not have more than fifty bullets,” he said.
The Iraqi government had, prior to the May 6 decision, ordered police and army to seize any weapons found during surprise inspections of Iraqi households, however it still allowed families to own a gun or a riffle.
“A weapon can be used to defend one’s family from a robber… in the countryside Iraqis have had always had a riffle or gun to defend themselves from a wild animal for example,” he added.
Weapons are also used during wedding festivities or ceremonies; traditional Iraqis, like many other Arabs, fire bullets into the air to celebrate but also during funerals to mourn.
Asked about why there are people who fear sectarian violence after this decision, Mashhadani said that “it could be due to possible infiltration of police forces by some militias, which can lead to seizure of weapons from people whenever the police choose to do so.”
Infiltration of Iraqi security apparatus is not new. Some officials have previously indicated that some imprisoned terrorists were set free because of certain elements in the government being infiltrated by militias. Also, warring parties can use militia proxies against each other, in an example of how the security situation Iraqi is fragile.
Due to increased targeting of doctors, lawyers, engineers and journalists, the interior ministry in 2007 allowed people of these professions to own one weapon for the sake of self-defense.
However, the scene of violence in the country seems to be unchanging, despite the decision.
On Saturday, security and medical officials said that an Iraqi anti-terror officer, his wife and three children were shot dead by gunmen in north Baghdad.
The family was murdered on Friday evening, the officials said, taking to 10 the overall death toll from violence in the Iraqi capital a day ago, and 15 in the past two days, a notable increase from what had been a relative calm.
“Gunmen used silenced pistols to kill Captain Mahmoud Abid, his wife and his three children yesterday (Friday) evening in their home in Kadhimiyah,” a predominantly Shi’ite Muslim neighborhood in north Baghdad, an interior ministry official said.
A medical official confirmed the deaths, and added that all three children were less than 10 years old.