|Smuggled weapon confiscated by police in one of many cases|
Ten years ago, sources close to Chinese criminal elements operating in Papua New Guinea alerted then Commissioner of Internal Revenue Commission, David Sode, of threats to assassinate him. Sode and other government agencies were at the time investigating and clamping down on a string of illegal activities including the proliferation of cheap gambling machines, lottery tickets and guns.
|Weak gun laws offer no protection for ordinary Papua New Guineans|
Those who issued the threats were arrested and deported and within months, the illegal gaming machines were banned in Port Moresby and the premises of operators raided.
Government agencies responded quickly.
While much of the focus was on illegal gaming machines and lottery tickets, authorizes still had difficulty clamping down of the owners of illegal weapons.
In a conversation with a senior government official, who cannot be named for security reasons, he said one of the men who allegedly issued threats to the former IRC commissioner had “six licenses to kill. ” All six gun licenses were seemingly legitimate and were all signed by appropriate authorities.
Back then, my ignorance on the Firearms act of 1978 prevented me from understanding that the main reason preventing severe action against importers of illegal weapons were Papua New Guinea’s weak gun laws.
Ten years on, the gun problem has surfaced yet again. This time with the appearance in a Lae court of a foreign national who allegedly smuggled in M4 assault rifles and handguns.
Police and customs officers dealing with the case found that Papua new Guinea’s Firearms act of 1978 has not proven to be a strong deterrent against well financed gun importers who can easily pay the specified fine of K1500.
The head of the Police Criminal Investigation Directorate, Donald Yamasombi, has been trying to convince key government agencies and legislators to amend gun laws to reflect the changing PNG landscape. He maintains the old gun laws do little to help police deal with security issues in Papua New Guinea.
Earlier this year, in Bogia, Madang province, police intercepted a small shipment of guns including M4 carbines commonly used by the US Navy Seals. What is worrying for police is the larger network of buyers in the highlands provinces who are willing to pay up to K20,000 for a weapon.