Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku, recently proposed that all citizens be allowed to carry AK-47 as a way of protecting themselves. He made the statement when he played host to 15 Local Government Chairmen of the state. The governor, like every true Nigerian, was understandably worried about the security challenges currently facing the country. But suggesting that every citizen be allowed to possess AK-47 will not solve the present security challenges.
The Nigerian Firearm Act (1990) clearly stipulates that no person or groups should be in possession of firearms except by authorization or due license.
This is meant to check the proliferation of arms and ammunition across the country. Gun control laws in many countries of the world including Nigeria are meant to reduce the abuse of weapons and criminality. It makes it harder for just anybody to be in possession of firearms. This includes people within a certain age, those who suffer from mental illness, history of substance and drug abuse, violent behaviours, and defective eyesight.
The level of tension and growing violence in the country is alarming. The hard economic times are biting hard on the citizens. Now, even traffic altercations between two motorists promptly degenerate into blows and bloodshed. Community clashes that could have been amicably settled end up with several loss of lives. Marital issues emanating from frivolities have led to one party either badly injured or dead.
Now, imagine everybody having easy access to firearms. It will become a case of who pulls the trigger first. So when Gov. Darius Ishaku said all Nigerians should be allowed to carry AK-47, it can only set the stage for chaos and bloodshed. There is a need to understand that violence cannot be curbed simply by creating a pathway for more violence. In the aftermath of the EndSARS Protest, after the burning and looting of police stations, most states that witnessed these attacks experienced a remarkable surge in crimes. Kidnappings, murder and violence rose quickly. This was as a result of stolen arms and ammunition.
The Nigerian Police is still trying to recover most of the firearms. These criminals continue to use these arms to carry out nefarious activities and inflict harm on citizens. So suggesting that everybody should be allowed to ‘carry AK-47’ is a call to lawlessness and Nigeria is a country governed by laws.
A country like America with all its numerous developments still struggles with the effects of allowing her citizens to arm themselves. Mass shootings are common sights. There have been various calls for gun control. On Monday February 1st, 2021, three neighbours in the State of Pennsylvania died after a fatal shooting following an argument.
In a horrifying video captured on CCTV, James Spaide was seen embroiled in an argument with his neighbours, James Goy and his wife, Lisa Goy. James Spaide had gone inside his house and came out with a gun, shooting the couple multiple times. Clearly, to make sure they died, he went back into his house, retrieved another firearm and shot them again. After killing his neighbours, he shoots himself, dying from self -inflicted wounds.
According to data from the Gun Violence Archive (an online site that collects gun violence data) says that over 19, 000 people were killed in shootings and firearm related incidents in 2020 in the United States. A staggering number, but it gives an idea of what it will look like if everyone had guns in Nigeria.
Governor Darius Ishaku wants everyone to be responsible for their individual safety by arming himself with firearms. Is that not the duty of the government? If all Nigerians had AK-47, what will become of the country? Total anarchy! That is, a society where everybody will do anything they like. Everyday becomes a battle field with licensed arm wielders. The slightest altercations even between families that could easily be settled by all parties concerned become incensed by the availability of firearms. A society where guns can be gotten by just anybody is frightening. What happens to the vulnerable? Who will protect them?
The high number of illegal firearms in the country is already increasing the level of violent crimes. When criminals stole firearms and ammunition from police posts during the EndSARS Protests, they did not use it to protect their communities, rather they deployed it to unleash mayhem and terror. Boko Haram and bandits are clearly not protecting farming communities either. Their arms and ammunition is a constant source of fear, terror and panic.
Supporters of the ‘arm everybody with firearms’ rhetoric may say, checks will be put in place but how has that worked for a country like America? Once we go down this path, it may become difficult to return.
The governor was right about one thing when he said “we have to all wake up”. Government must as a matter of urgency first address the root causes of insecurity. As citizens we should collectively wake up and play our part in helping to solve the myriad of security challenges presently faced by the country.
This can be achieved through uprightness, and also by being watchful, not as armed individual vigilantes. Becoming individually armed vigilantes will do more harm than good. It is therefore in the interest of all citizens to shelve every notion of democratizing the use of firearms. The duty of ensuring the security of lives and property should be left to the government and all security agencies. It will always remain a better and safer option.
By Oviasuyi Osas