Guns and children

April 16, 2015

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A boy wearing a surgical mask holds a weapon.— Reuters
A boy wearing a surgical mask holds a weapon.— Reuters
After the APS Peshawar attack, students in several educational institutions in the country have been given weapons training by police and even taught to defuse bombs.  — Sindh police twitter
After the APS Peshawar attack, students in several educational institutions in the country have been given weapons training by police and even taught to defuse bombs. — Sindh police twitter
Even within the controlled environment of a shooting range, allowing children access to firearms conveys subliminal messaging that glorifies violence and renders the use of deadly force acceptable.  — AP/file
Even within the controlled environment of a shooting range, allowing children access to firearms conveys subliminal messaging that glorifies violence and renders the use of deadly force acceptable. — AP/file
Even within the controlled environment of a shooting range, allowing children access to firearms conveys subliminal messaging that glorifies violence and renders the use of deadly force acceptable. — Daneen Baloch/file
Even within the controlled environment of a shooting range, allowing children access to firearms conveys subliminal messaging that glorifies violence and renders the use of deadly force acceptable. — Daneen Baloch/file

To say that Pakistan is a gun-friendly country would be stating the obvious. The number of firearms owned by civilians here, both legal and otherwise, is estimated to be at least 18,000,000, which works out to a rate of 11.6 guns per 100 people.

Compare that with India, where it is 3.36 per 100 people. No self-respecting ‘VIP’ — or an aspiring one — in Pakistan would deign to be seen without a posse of armed guards.

Applications for arms licences have registered a steady increase with tens of thousands of them being issued within the span of a few years as the security situation has deteriorated. Shooting ranges are witnessing higher numbers of visitors.

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A small arms shooting competition in Karachi, the first ever international one, is scheduled for May. While such competitions are no doubt a healthy sporting activity — shooting is even an Olympic sport — it is rather disturbing that the forthcoming event includes a category for children.

According to the organisers, children as young as 10 will be handling pistols and rifles on the occasion.

After the APS Peshawar attack, Pakistan in some respects seems to have discarded clear thinking for knee-jerk reactionary responses.

Also read| Teaching our students to fire weapons is madness itself

Students in several educational institutions in the country have been given weapons training by police and even taught to defuse bombs.

To believe that such an approach can enhance students’ defence capabilities is surely deluded, and it could well have tragic consequences.

It is for good reason that arms licences are not issued to those below the age of majority: with the right to handle lethal weapons comes the concomitant responsibility of due care that the law assumes is beyond the capacity of a minor.

Even within the controlled environment of a shooting range, allowing children access to firearms conveys subliminal messaging that glorifies violence and renders the use of deadly force acceptable.

Protecting children in a heavily militarised environment does not mean co-opting them into the dangerous pursuits that should be the domain of adults alone.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2015

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