A policy for gun safety?
Gun violence has become a plague around the world. Over a week ago, two mass shootings took place within a single week in Serbia, a nation tied to the third-highest rate of gun ownership in the world. While the tragic deaths shocked the world and broke many hearts, the reaction of the Serbian government was exemplary.
Two days after the massacre, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic immediately imposed tough gun control measures -- ie a ban on new gun permits, severe penalties for illegal weapons possession, psychological checks on gun owners, and an amnesty for the surrender of illegal weapons. It is reported that 65,000 people surrendered their illegal guns within a few days of the announcement.
Another example is the case of Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who recently repealed his predecessor's pro-gun policy by requiring gun owners to register their weapons with the police. Brazil has one of the highest rates of gun deaths per capita. These examples reflect how leaders deal with escalating gun violence in the world.
Sadly, such enthusiasm to improve gun safety is not as prevalent among policymakers and politicians in Thailand. Current election campaigns have confirmed that gun control policies have not even been considered. Such a lack of interest in gun safety is deeply concerning.
This week at a temple in Nong Bua Lam Phu, a 74-year-old monk -- "Luang Por Wandee" -- shot a junior monk after some verbal arguments. Late last month, two men died, and two people hurt in a gun duel in front of a wedding party in Surat Thani. It is reported that one of the guns used was obtained from the interior ministry's gun welfare programme and that the owner also had a criminal record.
This caretaker cabinet has acknowledged the problems but has constantly failed to take any meaningful action. After the shooting spree in Nakhon Ratchasima in February 2020, the army promised to run psychological tests on their personnel. Three years have passed, and no progress has been made.
Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, who oversees the Department of Provincial Administration -- a gun licensing body and the biggest gun importer in the country -- promised to improve background checks and safety regulations for the programme. Again, this was proven to be nothing more than lip service.
It can only be hoped that the new government and Thai politicians will give gun violence and gun safety the attention it deserves. Caring is not enough. The new government must act now to prevent any gun-related losses that only seem to be increasing by the day.
The new interior minister could save many lives by giving the gun welfare programme a major reform as the programme has been a major driver for gun violence in Thailand -- ultimately offering loopholes for guns to fall into the wrong hands. What's worse, several interior minister officials have been charged time and again with corruption for making money from selling guns and even permits off this programme.
The new prime minister must order the Royal Thai Police and armed forces to check the psychological condition of all gun holders, especially soldiers and the police. Never forget that the perpetrators of the two deadliest gun massacres in the country were officials who were trained to use guns.
Without the political will to end gun violence in Thailand, we will only be confronted with more deaths and tragedies that could have been avoided.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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