Today’s Opinion: Gun control

POSTED: 04/13/11 12:09 PM

The gun policy Justice Minister Roland Duncan favors is destined to fail. It’s not that we’re not wishing otherwise, but in the wake of the shopping mall massacre in Alphen aan den Rijn on Saturday we learned that even in the Netherlands gun control is shaky at best.

Duncan’s firm belief that a medical test, a psychological evaluation and a requirement to have a gun safe at home are sufficient guarantees is built on quicksand, as the experience in the Netherlands shows.

How else could Tristan van der Vlis, a 24-year-old with a history of psychiatric problems obtain licenses for five firearms?

Well, here is your answer. The Telegraaf reported yesterday that the police do not have time to control all citizens who legally own a gun. The Council of Chief commissioners acknowledged in a report by RTL News that the number of controls is insufficient, due to “limited capacity at the responsible department for special laws.”

Note that even the police forces in the Netherlands are understaffed. In St. Maarten the understaffing is still significant, and there is no clear indication of when this situation will improve. When there are not enough cops on the force, stuff like murder, manslaughter, theft, burglary, armed robbery, domestic violence, and human smuggling – just to mention a few examples – will always prevail over a tour to check whether an applicant for a gun permit really has a gun safe installed at home.

In the Netherlands, the law prescribes that gun owners have to be controlled once a year. During those controls, the police have to check whether the permit holders are storing their weapons and ammunition correctly.

The police force in Holland Center, the district of Alphen aan den Rijn, controlled last year only 25 percent of all permit holders, RTL News reported.

In the other districts the percentage of gun owners that underwent a control varied from 9 to 60 percent.

A spokesman for the Council of Chief Commissioners said that the police see all weapon owners once a year when they come in to renew their license. The Netherlands has approximately 43,000 sports shooters. The number of gun licenses, including those for hunters, is around 70,000.
The spokesman said – correctly – that controls at home are no medicine against violent dramas like the one in Alphen aan den Rijn. “somebody could undergo a control and have everything in order and the next day everything could go wrong. Controls have no influence on that.”

So there we have it: controls will not prevent the abuse of weapons possession, and anyway, the police have not enough manpower to control all gun owners every year.

This is of course exactly the situation that will occur in St. Maarten if the gun policy allows more citizens to own weapons. It is not necessary so that there will be a run on new licenses, because not everybody is a gun nut.

But the current number of 111 licenses will expand unavoidably, and the police will have no time to control these people.

All this leads us to support stricter gun laws, instead of more liberal ones.

The argument that there is a lot of illegal weapons possession (which in itself it true) and that therefore law-abiding citizens must get the opportunity to catch up with the bad guys has in our opinion no merit.

Theoretically, for every unnecessary gun permit the Justice Minister issues, the burden on the understaffed police force becomes a tiny bit heavier. It will take the focus of the fight against crime, and that is why putting more guns in the hands of ordinary citizens is a bad idea.


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