ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Noting that the ‘only purpose of a gun is to kill,’ Nazire Dedeman, head of the Umut Foundation, an NGO working for individual disarmament, says she cannot understand how Turkish parliamentarians are planning to liberalize the country’s gun laws. Laws allowing people as young as 18 to own up to five guns is entirely irresponsible, Dedeman says
The Umut Foundation organizes a parade each year titled 'Walk of the Silent Shoes' to commemorate the victims of individual disarmament. The son of Nazire Dedeman, the head of the NGO, was also killed by a gun.
A prospective Turkish bill that would lower the minimum age for firearms possession to 18 and make owning a gun easier is inexplicable, according to the head of a nongovernmental association that campaigns for individual disarmament.
“In our country especially the percentage of youngsters between 15 and 25 who commit suicide is quite high,” said Nazire Dedeman, head of the Umut Foundation. “The risk continues up to the age of 35. Between the ages of 25 and 30 deaths from firearms reach their highest level.”
Death rates from gun usage could thus skyrocket, according to Dedeman, who added that parliamentarians might also be preparing to grant people the right to possess upward of four or five guns.
He said the Umut Foundation especially opposes the draft because it contains no central data bank, no compulsory education certificate prior to obtaining the license, no license investigation and no automatic cancellation system.
“Our foundation has assumed the job of educating new generations that will believe in the superiority of law and in resolving disputes by peaceful ways,” will never accept measure like these, said Dedeman.
Dedeman’s son, 17-year-old Umut Onal, was killed by a gun in 1993. The boy’s death led Dedeman to found the Umut Foundation in 1993 as an NGO working focused on securing individual disarmament, reducing violence, fostering a culture of peace and upholding the supremacy of the rule of law.
He said the new law is also dangerous because it will liberalize rules over gun advertisements, reduce the number of mental health examinations necessary to acquire a weapon and permit more occupational groups to bear arms if their job is considered “dangerous.”
Guns kill eight people a day in Turkey
For anti-firearms campaigners in Turkey, the balance sheet on weapons in the country makes for distressing reading. More than 10 million weapons with or without licenses exist in Turkey, while a firearm is found on one of every 10 people and in one of every three homes. One out of every 10 young people has a knife and one out of every 20 young people carries a firearm.
Meanwhile, eight people lose their lives and two people are injured by guns every day. Studies show that the presence of arms in a house increases the risk of death of one member of the family by murder, suicide or accident by 41 percent. One out of every 10 deaths from a firearm occurs in traffic.
The Umut Foundation has been researching individual disarmament in addition to carrying out activities that will mold public opinion. As a United Nations Consulting NGO and the Turkey International Action Network on Small Arms, or IANSA, Turkey representative, the foundation has been following this subject closely in Turkey and elsewhere in the world.
It also emphasizes the need to pay attention to the societal dimensions of individual disarmament in print newspapers, television, radio and Internet among those who are at present or will be studying in the future.
“Today, approximately 3,000 of our citizens lose their lives by means of firearms every year. The number of citizens possessing licensed or unlicensed guns is rather high. This problem is directly related to the right to life. That is why it is a particular concern to every citizen. I would like to remind [everyone]: The only purpose of a gun is to 'kill.' Therefore, individual armament is the most extreme point of violence,” she said.
In addition to the 3,000 killed every year; there are approximately an additional 15,000 people – their families – who are affected by the deaths, she said.
Besides appealing to members of Parliament to remove clamp down on guns, Dedeman has also called on people to speak up and tell their friends and neighbors about the trouble that individual armament brings.
Violence and the media
“Violence is one of the subjects that the media is the most attracted to in our country and probably in every other place in the world. At the same time, violence is a widely committed contravention against ‘human rights’ and ‘the right to life’ and unfortunately, it is an important part of our lives,” Dedeman said.
“Some of the work done on the topics media and violence indicate that media, especially television, present violence to the public as a 'normal' way to solve problems. Violence shown by the media is also getting attention from us, the viewers – it is even demanded,” she said.
“Peace starts firstly between two people,” she said. “To teach them peace and reconciliation is firstly the duty of the parents and then of teachers. Therefore, let’s use the language of peace and reconciliation during our communication with our children. After that, let’s learn media literacy and then teach it to our children. It is in our hand to shape with the awareness of citizenship the relationship of us and of our children with the mass media means.”
The foundation organizes “Individual Disarmament and Violence News” seminars, holds an annual gathering in Taksim Square called “The Walk of Silent Shoes” and gives awards every Sept. 28 to members of the media who focus on the issue of crimes with weapons.