ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
An unidentified man holds a gun at a defense fair in Istanbul. New legislation aims to make it easier to obtain a gun license. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
Legislation introduced last summer that would allow people to own up to five guns has resurfaced as a contentious issue, pitting the government against the opposition.
“The draft law increases individual armament instead of decreasing it,” Hulisi Güvel from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Friday. Güvel claimed the original report prepared by a domestic affairs subcommittee, of which he was a member, had been changed by ruling-party deputies under pressure from what he called “weapons merchants.”
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, disagrees with the CHP’s claims that the legislation, which would allow any individual to have up to five weapons licenses, would increase gun ownership in the country.
The draft law was first sent to Parliament in August 2009. The Domestic Affairs Committee set up a subcommittee, headed by AKP deputy Selami Uzun, to look into the issue and prepare a report, which it submitted to the full committee in February. The legislation is still pending in the committee.
More on guns in Turkey Bill liberalizing gun possession laws inexplicable, Turkish NGO head says “We prepared the report in the subcommittee. We took into consideration the views of interested nongovernmental organizations, including those of the Umut Foundation,” Güvel said, referring to a group campaigning for individual disarmament. He added that the subcommittee’s original report included wording that made it more difficult for individuals to procure weapons.
“For instance, in the draft it was sufficient to get a health report from a simple health care center [in order to get a gun license],” Güvel said. “We changed it to a report from a full-fledged hospital.”
According to Güvel, the subcommittee also annulled a provision in the initial draft that would have permitted weapons to be advertised. These revisions, he claimed, were changed overnight by deputies from the ruling party under pressure from the gun lobby. “They inserted some regulations facilitating the procurement of arms. They did not even inform us,” he said, arguing that the version sent to the full committee would make getting a gun as easy as buying cigarettes. He added that he is concerned that the ruling party might pass the law hastily, without telling the opposition.
“I registered my oppositional reservations in the report. Due to reactions, the draft is now suspended,” Güvel said.
Committee head Uzun denied Güvel’s claims, saying he does not believe the draft law opens the way to more individual gun ownership and that it is only pending in the committee because there is no urgent need for Parliament to pass it.
Admitting that some criticisms have been directed toward the draft, Uzun said the committee has been listening to civil society representatives’ concerns about the issue.
“We need to address society in general and thus find the middle ground,” he told the Daily News. “I personally do not think the draft in its current form liberalizes individual armament. Nor does it forbid it. It is somewhere in the middle.”
Uzun said obtaining a weapons license is not a right for everyone, noting that potential purchasers need to meet certain conditions. He added that the current law does not restrict the number of weapons licenses that can be obtained by one individual, while the new draft limits the number to five.
The committee head also dismissed concerns about pressure from the gun lobby, saying it is only natural for him to talk to its representatives.
“The weapons industry would obviously lobby. They are conducting trade, they hire workers, they pay taxes, they export and they bring in foreign currency. Of course we would talk to them,” he said, adding that he met with weapons producers rather than sellers.
“They are telling us not to put obstacles in front of them, not to obstruct their exports. Obviously they are defending their rights,” he said.
The draft law pending in the Domestic Affairs Committee requires only a doctor’s report – rather than a report from a group of doctors at a full-fledged hospital as to whether a person has any neurological, psychological or physical illness – in order to get a gun license. While the current law has no provisions for temporary licenses, the draft says a person applying to get a weapons license can get permission to carry a gun for a six-month period.
The age limit for weapons purchases is maintained at 21 years old. The Umut Foundation, one of the fiercest critics of the draft law, has argued that should be raised to 25 years old, with an additional obligation for men to have carried out their military service before receiving a gun license.
The draft maintains the current ban prohibiting the carrying of weapons into courthouses, psychiatric facilities, parliamentary buildings, party meetings, sporting events, prisons, airports and workplaces where employees are on strike. Organizations including the Umut Foundations also want to expand the ban to cover bars, nightclubs, discos, wedding venues and other entertainment establishments.