The ongoing public discussions around the Arms and Ammunition Amendment Bill have again highlighted the importance of having really engaging consultations with the public on legislative issues.
It was only a fortnight ago that the Namibian public responded overwhelmingly to the legislative attempts to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling on citizenships. In the end, the legislative and executive abandoned the course to amend the citizenship law.
However, just as the citizenship amendment bill was important enough to deserve prominent space in the public discourse, so are other legislative matters in the forms of new and amendment bills heading to the Namibian Parliament this year.
For the 2016/17 session there are 40 bills heading to the National Assembly for discussion. The Arms and Ammunition Amendment Bill is among those.
While it may not look exciting, the Arms and Ammunition Amendment Bill has far-reaching consequences for all Namibians, including those who do not own firearms. There have been vocal public outcries on the amount of firearms in public hands, the reckless manner in which firearm owners behave and how such behaviours have taken away many lives – productive lives of innocent bystanders.
Then there are questions on illegal firearms, and lax control over the private selling of firearms.
Discussions have taken place on how a person would be reported to the police for threatening to shoot a spouse or an ex-romantic partner, only for such a person to carry out the evil deed afterwards. Police are accused of inaction and as such of being accomplices, especially when they did not confiscate the firearm or returned the firearm after a few days.
The public would be asking how such a person was allowed to possess a firearm. These are all items that ought to be addressed by the Arms and Ammunition Amendment Bill. And the public, which has buried enough children and parents through gun homicide, ought to be actively engaged in the discussion of these amendments. If not take the lead and ensure that the amendments bring about real change in the protection of innocent lives and reduce gun homicide in the country.