Human rights activists have called for a total ban on handgun possesion for civilians and a review on the use of guns by the police and the military amid concerns of rising gun violence.
The activists said that allowing civilians to own firearms for safety reasons, particularly among businessmen, could create fear among the general public, especially in resource-rich areas such as the country’s easternmost province of Papua.
“There is no need for civilians to possess firearms for any reason, including for self-defense. Therefore, we suggest that the House of Representatives and the government amend existing laws in order to ban gun ownership,” Al Araf of human rights watchdog Imparsial told the press at the watchdog’s headquarters in East Jakarta on Thursday.
“The government must immediately seize all firearms from civilians and lawmakers, while at the same time review their use among members of the police and the military to avoid firearms being used for personal interests.”
There are currently seven regulations on gun control – Law No. 8/1948 on firearms, which allows civilians, besides security guards and competitive shooters, to possess guns for self defense; Law No. 12/1951 on the illegal possession of firearms; Law No. 20/1960 on gun licenses; Government Regulation No. 56/1996 on customs of firearms; National Police Chief Decrees in 2000, 2004 and 2006 that regulate permits to possess and use of firearms.
All of these regulations allow civilians to possess firearms with certain conditions.
The 2004 National Police Chief Decree, for example, requires a gun applicant to undergo health and psychological tests, as well as training to obtain a license. It also obliges a gun owner to annually renew his or her license.
The decree limits civil possession of firearms exclusively for people of certain professions, such as regents, agency heads, company directors and lawyers.
Imparsial recorded around 41,102 guns in the public circulation. Around 17,983 of them are licensed for self defense; 11,869 for members of the police’s special squad; 6,551 for use in shooting sports; and 4,699 for security guards, better known as Satpam.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said that while the authorities were concerned about rising shooting incidents targeting state apparatus, data showed that trigger-happy officers have claimed more lives.
The NGO recorded at least 361 shootings have occurred in the last three years, claiming 191 lives and injuring 534. Most of the shootings remained unresolved until now, mainly because of the security apparatuses’ unwillingness to divulge the involvement of their members in the cases.
“Only a few perpetrators have been brought to justice, because there has been an absence of information accountability and transparency in the National Police and the Indonesian Military [TNI] over a string of shootings perpetrated by their members,” Kontras coordinator Haris Azhar said.
Between 2011 and 2013, police officers were involved in 278 shootings that killed 132 people and injured 428 others. “There are two main reasons behind the shootings conducted by the police. First their efforts to arrest criminal suspects, handling protests, land disputes or communal conflicts,” he said.
“The second reason, is personal conflicts or firearm negligence.”
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel were involved in 20 shootings that resulted in 5 fatalities and 35 injured victims. Haris said that the soldiers opened fire due to personal conflicts or negligence
As much as 63 shootings were perpetrated by unidentified gunmen. The accidents killed 54 and injured 71 individuals. “Some refer to the shootings as separatist attacks [...] Almost none of the perpetrators have been caught by the authorities,” Haris said.