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Senate Throws Out ‘Small Arms’ Bill

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The Plenary of the Liberian Senate was under serious tension Tuesday when a communication from Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper to his colleagues seeking amendment to the arms control bill was read. 

He sought the indulgence of his colleagues to legally allow ‘responsible Liberians’ to carry fire arms as a means of self-defense. The Plenary – under the watchful eyes of Presiding officer Geraldine Doe Sherif, within no time, went into serious arguments with opposition from some senators and support by others for the amendment.

Defending his position, Sen. Cooper said the country was gradually becoming deadly, especially with the increase in armed robbery cases on a daily basis, suggesting the best option was to allow responsible citizens carry fire arms – preferably pistol.

He further indicated that the issuance of fire arms to such citizens should be a process vetted by officials of the Liberia National Police and Commission on the Control of Small Arms, following which the government would sell arms.

Cooper intimated that in the 1960s and 1970s, Liberians carried fire arms and on the basis of such, the country was safer, while the rate of armed robbery was at a lower scale. According to him, the intent of his bill is to prevent criminals from terrorizing peaceful citizens, as well as create safe and free environment. “We think that the introduction of small fire arms to citizens is to guide our people from criminals – from harassment of peaceful citizens. Beware, UNMIL is at the verge of leaving – what happens if armed robbery is on the rampage? Our people will be vulnerable; our police and army do not have the capacity to protect everyone,” he said.

Pledging his support to Sen. Cooper, Rivercess County Senator Dallas Gueh described the action as timely, emphasizing that the issuance of fire arms to ‘responsible citizens’ would create fears in the minds of would-be-criminals.

But countering their arguments, Senate’s Chairman on Defense, National Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs, Steve Zargo indicated that the acceptance of the amendment would contravene the entire process of the small arms control program.

The Lofa County Lawmaker added that the communication was not in the interest of the state, but intended to take the country back to the dungeon of conflict and insecurity. Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson also said the issuance of fire arms to citizens would create an unsafe terrain. Senator Johnson expressed the fear that young people would take advantage of the situation and may attack people they perceive consider as threats.

For Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, the communication was intended to divert the minds of Senators from the country’s national security agenda to something non-essential.
Meanwhile, the Senators, on Tuesday, overwhelmingly voted against the communication with a motion that the letter be considered as though it has not entered the Plenary of the Liberian Senate.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by George Barpeen

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