Gun control in Namibia

08 February 2019
Author   Ismael Kambonde
Gun control is a vitally important issue in not only Namibia, but other societies, especially those that have emerged from struggle and war, and where there is a proliferation of small arms. Recent heinous murders/assaults and robberies where guns have been used, have pushed the gun control issue to the forefront.
It is difficult to quantify the number of lives that have been lost or the number of people maimed and injured by urban handguns in past decades in Namibia alone.  How many incidents have occurred, reported or not, where guns have played a role in intimidation, robbery, rape, or even home protection or personal self-defense?  No one may ever know this statistic for certain, but I believe it is quite high.
The rise in violent crimes is emphasized by the increase in demand for small arms and light weapons. Namibia is experiencing a high degree and intensity of brutal murders and murder/suicides, armed robberies, assaults and car hijackings, and now murders in the workplace.
Concerned citizens are asking:  “why all this crime?”  A local newspaper reported that more than 200,000 gun licenses were issued during the past three years, while 321 others were granted in only the first month of this year!   I have no issue with farmers, people living in remote areas with natural threats, and those who hunt, legally owning the fire arms appropriate to their circumstances.  My concerns are with those in overcrowded urban areas who want hand guns and how those guns are being used.
With the recent increase in high crime rate, strict measures should be put in place to make sure only vetted, eligible and qualified applicants receive gun licenses.  Without more control, people who do not know how to use guns may have legal access to them.  People with violent crime or mental health histories may have access.  Children in homes where loaded guns might not adequately secured, might play with them and be injured or killed.  
I do not know the statistics on violent crime and whether those guns used were registered fire arms or illegal ones. I suspect that the majority of crime is done by those using illegal guns.  Licensing a gun is not the sole ‘solution’ to rising gun crime violence, but tightening the licensing rules can address part of the problem.
If you look at the number of firearms reported stolen in the past three years, (reportedly over 200), there is a high possibility that those firearms are now in the hands of criminals.  
A number of these unregistered weapons could possibly be a spillover from firearms used during the country’s liberation struggle or they could be stolen guns or illegally imported guns from other places. 
Society must face the gun question openly but we need more facts.  I wish there could be a way for criminals to anonymously inform the society of how they get guns (and ammunition), how many are out there, and whether it is easy/hard to get one.  Perhaps the police already know this.  If so, they should inform the public so we can better understand the whole problem.
Right now, it appears that anyone can get a gun license as long as they can afford it and have no criminal record.   In my view, it is important for people to be mentally sound before they are issued with a license for a firearm.  An applicants' history of violence or mental illness, alcohol/drug abuse, should be taken into consideration before issuing a license.
The news is full of names of innocent victims of gun violence.  It seems endless. 
Guns don’t kill people; people kill people – as the saying goes. The question we must ask is: what can we do?  There is no single solution, but I think the authorities can assist in reducing gun crime through better regulations that are aggressively implemented, gun safety training for legitimate gun owners, harsh prosecution of those found with unregistered weapons and most of all, better policing so that so many people don’t feel the need to own a gun for self-defense. 
The gun control debate should not only be a campaign that seeks to minimize small arms ownership, but deals with the root causes of what compels people to buy them.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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