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Deal firmly with gun traders

WE ARE deeply disturbed by the exposé in which shops in Lusaka have been illegally stocking and selling military regalia and various weapons which are displayed as toys.
Yesterday the Zambia Police Service swung into action and confiscated military attire and weapons from China Mall and Home Essentials at Manda Hill Shopping Mall after a tip-off from the public.
According to police spokesperson Esther Katongo, the police acted following complaints from the public about military attire and weapons which have become common among members of a gang called “flufies” in Mtendere Township.
The “flufies”, which is a gang of youths, has been terrorising citizens and committing all sorts of crimes in Mtendere and other parts of the city.
“We targeted one shopping mall after a tip from the members of the public who informed us about the sale of these garments and equipment,” Mrs Katongo said.
During the raid, the police confiscated air guns from Home Essentials which were classified as toy guns and yet were labelled as ‘fit for use by persons aged 18 and above’.
“When you look at this pistol it’s as heavy as an original gun and uses pellets with a warning that don’t aim at a human being or an animal now what sort of a toy is this?” Mrs Katongo wondered.
Other items confiscated from the shops include 78 black packs, 19 khaki back packs, 86 military camouflage, 14 short batons, three round belts with military pouches, 71 grey holsters and five combat belts.
There were also seven knee guards’ military colour, 37 black holsters, 181 holster belts six holster holders, 20 waist packers and 46 nose masks.
In Zambia and many parts of the world military regalia and weapons are handled with maximum care because of their sensitive and dangerous nature.
To this effect there are specific pieces of legislation that govern the way these weapons are procured, secured and also disposed of.
In Zambia the Firearms Act provides for regulation of licences and certificates and for the control of the import, export, movement, storage, possession, sale, manufacture and repair of firearms and ammunition.
The act prohibits anyone from manufacturing, purchasing, possessing or selling firearms without any licence.
We are therefore left to wonder whether these shop owners are ignorant of the law or arrogantly defying it? Unfortunately, for them, ignorance is no defence against breaking the law.
What is even more disturbing is the disguising of firearms as toys which endanger the public especially those who may not take time to read instructions on labels when purchasing items.
The questions that beg answers are: how did these goods escape the watchful eye of the Zambia Revenue Authority?
Or could it be that there are clandestine factories within the country where these goods are being manufactured?
The shop owners will be the right people to answer these questions as law enforcers interrogate them.
Zambia cannot afford to make such dangerous weapons easily accessible. It is a recipe for high crime rates and lawlessness.
Easy access to dangerous weapons could actually be one of the reasons fueling political violence and the gun culture witnessed recently.
The law in Zambia does not allow young people below the age of 21 to acquire or possess firearms. However, if firearms can be displayed on the shelves like that, it means young people, too, can have access at will.
For instance, members of the gangs like the “flufies” are young people, some as young as 12 years.
It is not only illegal but irresponsible for anyone to sell firearms to 12-year-olds.
Right now the country is grappling with the challenge of how to tame emerging gangs and end political violence. Providing dangerous weapons in such an open and careless manner only fuels the problem.
The expose could only be a tip of the iceberg. The police should therefore go flat-out to inspect any suspicious shops. The public, too, should be assertive to report other shops or traders engaging in such illegal sales.
ZRA and other relevant authorities also need to tighten security and inspections on the border posts to prevent any illegal goods from coming into the country.
We commend the police for moving in to confiscate the dangerous weapons.
We expect the law to take its course. Illegality is illegality and it should not be condoned from anyone whether citizen or investor.