Assault rifles are more visible than honest politicians on the streets of Sri Lanka. There is also been a steady growth in illegal firearms. smallarmssurvey.org has quite a few lengthy publications on Sri Lanka’s weapons proliferation and its implications. Yet its a miracle that we don’t hear about one of these many automatic weapons going off by accident – not that I want such a thing to happen. You are more likely to be hurt by a terrorist bomb than a misfiring weapon.
The most visible firearms are in the hands of Army, Air-force, Police, Navy, and Civil defence personal. Usually seem lining the streets of Colombo armed with variants the AK47 or T56. Or sitting bored out their minds at check points but clearly happy not to be in a trench in the war zone. Occasionally you might spot an Uzi of some sort or a M16 looking thing with the Special Task force types.
All of these people are stationed in very public places. Yet their weapons are slung in a rather haphazard way – with the barrels pointing carelessly at the street. The only exceptions I have seen are Army personal who point their weapons either upwards or at the ground. Weapons of bodyguards bouncing along in open jeeps behind VIP limos ride on their owners laps, the barrels unconsciously pointed at the unfortunate vehicle behind them. It surprises me the we haven’t heard of one of these firing when the a jeep goes over a rut.
Perhaps there are incidents of
misfiring weapons accidental discharge or negligent firing though I haven’t heard of any in the news. Perhaps they are seen as unimportant due to a lack of casualties (deaths are essential for good headlines in main stream media). Maybe weapons training is so good in Sri Lanka’s armed forces that the members of its many services don’t end up misfiring accidentally discharging their weapons.
I don’t have any information on the quality and practice of gun safety in the armed services to conclude anything. I’m certainly not going to speculate. All that can be said it that there are a lot of combat weapons on the street and no reports of misfirings. Its best to hope that this state of affairs is due to good fire arms training.
Sri Lanka has seemingly tight regulations about gun ownership without shutting down an active sports shooting community. However this has not prevented a steady increase in illegal weapons use by criminals and organised crime. Particularly in the president’s old electorate of Hambantota. Naturally government has a wordy body called the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (NCAPISA) to “combat” the issue. I doubt if fire arms safety is a priority of this commission 😉
Interestingly most of the incidents about illegal fire arms centre around intentional use of the weapons – murders and suicides. Not accidental firings. Perhaps it boils down to presence of military deserters in criminal gangs who do have the necessary training. Or a lack of proper reporting. I think it is unlikely that accidentally injuries caused mishandling illegal guns will be reported as a such. It is logical to think that owners of illegal weapons would report injuries caused by
misfiring accidental discharges as crimes and hope nobody sniffs at the fact too closely.
I suppose the fact that gun safety is not a major issue is a small blessing in this loony island. As with such small blessings, it is hard not to ignore the irony. I’ll close with this small wish: may you reading this, humble self, and anyone else we know, NEVER get shot (accidentally or otherwise).
Now that isn’t too much to ask is it?