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Guns and more guns. Let’s rid society of this evil

A four-year-old child’s possession of a handgun in school and the confiscation of a cache of firearms at Faleula has made headlines in recent days.

A man – who allegedly owned a handgun that ended up with his son and was taken to the child’s kindergarten class – has been charged by the Police with the possession of an unlawful firearm.

But not before the lad innocently pointed the firearm at his kindergarten teacher, who assumed it was a toy and told him to put it away, and only after the child disobeyed his teacher the second time did she discover that the handgun was real.

“The gun looks like it [had] been used as a toy for a while. It’s an old gun and it looks like the boy [had] probably been playing with it, using it as a toy. But the gun is real. It's a real gun,” said Reverend Pili Fata, the husband of the school principal.

Last Thursday the Police raided a property in Faleula and confiscated 15 weapons, including high-powered rifles and illegal handguns. A 44-year-old man was taken into custody and is facing charges of being in possession of unlawful firearms as well as material associated with the manufacturer and consumption of narcotics.

Therefore, the million tala question is are illegal firearms becoming commonplace in some family homes and villages in Samoa that law enforcement agencies are now facing an uphill battle against gun smuggling and drug consumption?

We ask this question two years after the Government’s last gun amnesty program in 2018 led by the Ministry of Police and Prisons, which saw over 100 guns surrendered and destroyed by the authorities.

Interestingly, the 2018 gun amnesty program was the second one under the current Police Commissioner Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil. The first one in 2015 netted over 300 guns which were also destroyed.

So after two successful gun amnesty programs over the past five years why are some citizens rebuilding a personal cache of weapons and continuing to be in possession of material connected with substance abuse?

The above question is the dilemma currently facing the Police as expressed by Fuiavaili'ili in a press conference at Police Headquarters last Friday.

“This is one of the things that we are now looking at but I have [undertaken] two [gun amnesties] since I’ve been here [in 2015],” he said.

But have sections of the community lost faith in making an honest living and now look to a life of crime and drugs to make a living?

And how many more homes should the Police raid in order to rid the society of illegal weapons that could one day be used against peace loving citizens?

It is good to see the nation’s top cop asking questions and demanding answers behind the rise in the possession of illegal firearms. 

We believe Fuiavaili'ili hit the nail on the head when he called for the nation’s laws relating to guns, ammunition and narcotics to be reviewed, with a view to making them tough enough to become deterrents against gun smuggling and the sale and possession of drugs.

“There are so many laws around guns, ammunition, narcotics that we need to take a look at from a broader perspective to fix [what is happening],” he said. 

“We’re trying to do the best we can, with the guidelines and laws in place that guide the work we do. Keep in mind we enforce the law, we don’t make the law.”

Currently, under Samoa laws unlawful possession of firearms, unlicensed dealing and illegal firearm importation can attract penalties of up to five years imprisonment.

Therefore, have our laws become a deterrence to gun and drug smugglers as well as criminals who continue with their illegal activities unabated?

Having a four-year-old child taking a handgun to school – which occurred in the early part of the 2020 school year around the time an angry father armed with a gun entered the Utuali’i Primary School – should set off the alarm bells for the Government to act and take on Fuiavaili'ili’s recommendations to review the relevant legislation in a bid to making the penalties against gun smuggling and illegal possession tougher.

We have in recent years seen the devastating consequences of shootings in public spaces including schools, as well as an upsurge in crime using firearms in other parts of the world.

Let us not forget the case of taro commercial farmer Peter Tulaga, who was sentenced by the Supreme Court to 28 years imprisonment in June last year, for attempting to murder Frysna Rimoni. His weapon? An unregistered 12 gauge shotgun.

Let’s act quickly to tackle this evil before an innocent life is lost.

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