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Iraqi Government Seeks To Employ Gun Control

An Iraqi boy holds an AK-47 machine gun (file photo)

An Iraqi boy holds an AK-47 machine gun (file photo)

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has presented a bill to parliament banning the possession of weapons by anyone except military and state security personnel, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Abbas al-Bayati, the deputy chairman of the parliament's Security and Defense
Committee, told RFI today that the first and second reading of the bill have
been completed and the deputies are expected to make a final vote on the bill
next week.

He said the bill lays down strict requirements for licensing the possession of arms to ensure that the state and its respective security organs have a monopoly on the use of weapons.

Bayati added that the bill also provides for severe penalties against those guilty of arms smuggling into and out of Iraq or involvement in illicit arms trafficking.

He underlined that the message of the legislation is "no return to sectarian violence and no return to paramilitary outfits with harsh punishment for those
who take the law into their own hands."

Bayati said the army, police, and security agencies alone will be responsible for protecting the people, whose sole duty is to cooperate with those forces and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.

But political analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie told RFI that "acts of violence and assassinations are often perpetrated by individuals employed as bodyguards of
state officials or planted in the security and military establishment by hostile groups."

Sumaidaie cited the Interior Ministry's internal affairs department saying its achievements against terrorist groups have been undermined by a serious
infiltration of its ranks by insurgents.

Major General Muhammad al-Askari, a media adviser to the defense minister, told RFI that existing controls will be tightened to stop and punish any abuses by members of the armed forces and security agencies.

Askari said there is a general inspectorate at each ministry as well as other instruments like the Internal Affairs Department that serve as a deterrent against the unlawful use of arms by government or security service personnel.

Sources told RFI that there were an estimated 7 million weapons held illegally in Iraq at the height of the sectarian violence in the country in 2007.

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