New gun control laws come into effect in Kuwait

New gun control laws come into effect in Kuwait
A controversial new Kuwaiti law for the collection of unlicensed arms among the estimated 630,000 guns owned by Kuwaitis.
2 min read
24 June, 2015
The police started rounding up unlicensed weapons on Tuesday [Getty]

On Tuesday, a controversial new Kuwaiti law came into effect that will see citizens' homes searched for unlicensed arms, ammunition and fireworks.

The Interior Ministry has pledged to "respect the customs of the people of Kuwait" in implementing the law, vowing to use female police officers when searching homes.

MPs opposed the bill mainly because it entailed searches of homes and citizens, viewing it as an infringement of civil rights. The ministry promised it would search domiciles, vehicles, and individuals if there was a reason to suspect they are holding arms, but only after obtaining permission from the Public Prosecutor's office or its representatives.

The Interior Ministry pledged to respect the customs of the people of Kuwait in implementing the law, using female police officers when searching homes.

The National Assembly, Kuwait's parliament, passed the law four months ago. The law gave Kuwaitis a grace period of four months that expired on Monday, exempting anyone who hands over their weapons to the interior ministry from prosecution. By Monday night, 3,250 various weapons had been handed over in addition to more than eight tons of ammunition. Around 3,800 gun permits were also issued over the same period.

The bill was drafted after mounting security concerns arising from the proliferation and ease of access to unlicensed firearms. Despite strict regulations on firearm ownership, guns and rifles can be obtained with relative ease at local markets., a firearm injury prevention and policy group, put the number of guns held by civilians in Kuwait at 630,000.

Security sources cited by the local press have repeatedly warned in the past the presence of these weapons could drive the rates of violent crime up. Though murder rates using firearms in Kuwait are low, the authorities were nervous this could soon change. There were also a number of highly publicised crimes involving guns, including on April 2014, when security guards were shot dead during an armed robbery in the capital.

Another possible source of concern is the rising threat of jihadism in the region.

In March, unnamed security sources told the local newspaper al-Qabas that compliance with the gun collection campaign has been especially weak among young people, including young women, also known to possess handguns. Young people in Kuwait are known to collect firearms and daggers, usually purchased as hunting weapons or souvenirs.

The sources also complained about the emergence of a black market for such weapons in the aftermath of the law.