Rwanda Parliament – lower chamber has passed a revised law that provides for citizens to apply for gun ownership on conditions of a clean criminal record and background check.
While in the USA one can purchase a gun from a gun shop or dealer by showing an Identity card, the Rwandan draft law, if approved by two remaining authorities as it was passed by lower chamber, will require the applicants to be mentally fit and not sentenced to jail for six months and more.
In evaluating ones mental stability (health) a person will be required to get a certificate from one government psychiatrist, be classified as a person of integrity, but some Lawmakers pushed for a holistic history review of the applicants and more than one health experts’ approval.
“It is very hard to know if someone has had mental problems in the past. You can never know how someone may act with a gun in their hands. So that is why we need to evaluate one’s life history as a requirement,” said lawmaker Elisabeth Mukamana.
The law has a new provision that gives Rwanda Police full responsibility in procedures of acquiring, control and use of the arms.
It states that police will be in charge of gun registration, recovering in case of abrupt death of the owner, revoking a gun license from its owner- who will have to sign a contract with the police before acquiring the arms.
On mental health certificate and one’s integrity, State Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana said that there is a lack of health experts in mental health and limiting to one expert was based on benchmarking.
“We don’t have enough medical specialists in Rwanda but Police will have responsibility and discretion to vet the applicants because guns are not like buying a knife in the market, and police can assess one’s integrity to avoid any network of armed groups,” Uwizeyimana said during the first presentation on May 24, 2018.
For more than one and half hours the lower house on May 24, 2018 picked a lot of interest in the law with debates on safety, procedures and monitoring during a plenary session which was postponed on time basis with only 45 articles discussed.
The draft law Nº 33/2009 of 08/11/2009 on fire arms has since 2017 been discussed in parliament with 36 articles out of 75 articles needing correction but the law was totally overhauled as a result of an African heads of state decree on fire arms in February 2018 – allowing states to review their laws on firearms possession.
The revised law also defined terminology of firearms as any ammunition, ranging from guns, grenade, explosives, and nuclear, biological, chemical or toxic weapons.
The proposed law allows civilians to possess firearms for hunting, sports, or for self-defense purposes if they meet the conditions described in the law.
Today Parliament resumed voting on the firearms possession. The parliament passed the 74 articles draft law unanimously (by the 55 votes of the lawmakers present.)
MPs agreed that the new law should provide for the national police to be directly responsible for taking care of handing over gun permits and retrieving the weapons.
The law also opened doors for arms dealing which has not been existent in the private sector, however debate arose on what happens if fire arms are illegally brought or passed through Rwanda.
Minister Uwizeyimana said that “for the sake of the country’s integrity, such arms will be destroyed and cannot be put within other official arms.”
While the last Police report in 2016 shows that no Rwandan has applied for a firearm, Zeno Mutimura, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security which presented the law, said that individual owners and arms dealers will all have to secure a license for the firearms.