Iraq cracks down on unlicensed firearm ownership
Iraqi security forces have confiscated a quarter of a million weapons so far in its campaign to seize unlicensed firearms, according to the Joint Operations Command.
“Our main job is to seize unlicensed arms, and this is the top objective of this operation,” Brig. Tahseen Khafaji, spokesperson of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, told Rudaw on Wednesday. “What the security forces and Baghdad Operations Command are doing to seize unlicensed guns and capture terrorists has reflected positively on society.”
The operation began two months ago in Baghdad and Anbar, and nearly eight months ago in other provinces of Iraq, Khafaji said.
The Joint Operations Command estimates there are one million unlicensed weapons in civilian hands. To date they have confiscated 250,000 firearms, including 50,000 in Basra province, 42,000 in Dhi Qar, 36,000 in Maysan, and 27,000 in Diwaniya. In Baghdad’s Shaab, Baladiyat, Kifah, and Hurriyah neighbourhoods, they have confiscated more than 25,000 light and medium firearms, notably the Kalashnikov rifle.
Weapons are frequently sold illegally in gun markets like Baghdad’s Hafiz Qazi.
Baghdad residents have welcomed the campaign to get guns off their streets.
“Look, when the Iraqi national football team wins, people shoot. Neighbors fight, they shoot. Whatever happens, guns are fired,” Najim Jabir, a government employee in Baghdad, told Rudaw. “People must be disarmed. Weapons must be in the hands of the state, only.”
Tariq Ahmed, a local resident in Baghdad also praised the move saying, “Only the security forces, the interior ministry, defense, and intelligence control arms. These are the foundations of a genuine state.”
“Unless the government controls them, it will lead to violence,” he added.
In 2018, Iraqi authorities ramped up efforts to monitor gun ownership by drafting strict new regulations on the buying and selling of firearms – the first of their kind in decades. The new law required citizens wanting to purchase a gun to obtain official authorization and an identity card.
Last year, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued an amnesty, giving gun owners six months to register their firearms and give up their heavy weapons, after which owners of unregistered or illegal weapons will be prosecuted. The KRG has seen limited success in previous campaigns. Source