Of public safety and national security‘…surrender illegal firearms’

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By Tapiwa Bere

LEGAL scholars term public safety as the protection of the general populace. 

Gun-related crimes have reached an alarming level and such crimes are now a cause for concern. 

The adage: ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ is a sign that guns are not as evil as some may think but the immorality and illegal use of the guns by irresponsible people can be a risk to our national security. 

Newspaper headlines are screaming numerous armed robbery cases and abuse of firearms leading to murder and suicide cases. 

These social ills are now affecting our human security dimension, that is the community and personal security. 

A lot of unlicensed guns have found their way into wrong hands; in so doing, increasing the crime rate in Zimbabwe. 

Illegal possession and use of unregistered firearms results in devastating consequences which include poaching, murder, armed robberies and suicide, to mention a few. 

The US is proving to be losing the battle on control of firearms as gun violence is now the order of the day. The police are always chasing after one psycho or another who has killed people in mass shooting sprees. 

Out of 471 reported cases, in 2022, of mass shootings in the US, at least 1 962 people were wounded including the shooters while 506 people were recorded dead due to mass shootings only. The slackening of gun laws in the US is a risk to their national security. 

Here, in Zimbabwe, we are also witnessing such negative aspects of illegal possession of guns and abuse of firearms. 

Recently, we lost a young couple of Tafadzwa Murenga (Ximex Mall dealer) and Samantha Dzapata due to abuse of firearms, while armed robberies are increasing day-by-day. 

To fight this bane, President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently granted an amnesty which is in line with Article 12 of SADC Protocol on the control of firearms, ammunition and related materials. The amnesty has been running from August 8 to September 30 2022. 

The amnesty stipulates that no criminal charges will be preferred to members of the public during this period as long as one complies with the provisions of the Presidential Amnesty. 

This is a positive move by the President in an effort to combat this menace of abuse of firearms and illegal possession of dangerous weapons. Prevention is better than cure. Some countries are now battling armed anti-government militias due to illegal possession of firearms. 

Last year in May, the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba of Nigeria, launched ‘Operation Restore Peace’ which was part of the government’s effort to address growing insecurity and attacks on security infrastructure.  

Usman Baba declared that: “There must come a time in the life of a nation when we, as a people, must strengthen our will and resolve to mobilise and deploy all our assets towards confronting these criminal elements, take the battle to their doorsteps, and make a clear statement that the few deviants within us cannot and will not re-order our cherished national values. The time is now.” 

After the Presidential Amnesty, the police must act on those who did not heed the call by President Mnangagwa urging them to surrender unlicensed guns and to register their firearms. 

The police can use some tactics of deterring illegal possession and carrying of guns such as directed patrols in high crime areas, weapon reporting hotlines and constant searches on all people suspected of illegally possessing guns. 

The Government must impose stricter laws at our ports of entry to avoid illegal transportation of firearms into the country. Everyone has a role to play in order to create a gun-crime-free environment. 

The judiciary can also chip in to help combat related crimes through lengthy sentences for criminal use of firearms. 

The self-concept of: ‘I am because we are’ plays an important role in public safety and national security. 

The self-concept finds its origin within the context of the family which, in turn, is exposed to various agencies of socialisation within the community and the nation at large for further nurturing process. 

French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1938) asserts that key agencies of socialisation such as education, media, religion, peer groups and work places should centre stage during the nurturing process of the individual.

It is through these agencies of socialisation where the self-concept, which had been shaped previously by the family, is now being refined in a macro-perspective. Consequently, universal national values, norms and beliefs are imparted into the ‘I am’ (self-being) so as to have an appreciation and appraisal of the accepted code of conduct of the environment in which the actor is coming from. 

It is, therefore, against this background where national interests are shaped under the assumption that ‘we are one’ henceforth; the issue of unity of purpose, team spirit, national consensus and even ideological practices must be underpinned against such principles. 

Anyone who, therefore, violates such status quo, either as an external actor or internal actor, shall face dire consequences depending on the security and defence mechanisms endorsed by that particular State actor. 

Together we can fight gun-related crimes before they get out of hand. Ubuntu/hunhu will help our nation mould law abiding citizens.  All illegal firearms must be surrendered to any nearest police station forthwith. 

President Mnangagwa has given you a chance. 

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