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Namibia: Police Chief Calls for Gun Law Reform

(May 23, 2013) It was reported on May 20, 2013, that Sebastian Ndeitunga, Namibia’s Police Inspector General, said that the country is “too armed”; that the process for obtaining arms is too lax; and that the country should quickly move to tighten the governing law, the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1996. (Shinovene Immanuel, Top Cop Admits Nation Is Too Armed, THE NAMIBIAN (May 20, 2013).) He highlighted the fact that there are no rules banning the carrying of firearms and other weapons, such as knives, in public as particularly problematic. (Id.) He also acknowledged the prevalence of cross-border trafficking of illegal arms, resulting from the region having been mired in various conflicts not long ago, particularly South Africa’s armed resistance against apartheid rule, which lasted until the early 1990s, and Angola’s civil war, which ended in 2002. (Id.)

The current regulatory regime imposes a host of requirements for obtaining a firearms license. With the exception of certain limited instances, it prohibits possession of a firearm without a license. (Arms and Ammunition Act 7 of 1996, § 2, GOVERNMENT GAZETTE OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA, No. 1338 (June 26, 1996), available at EBOOKBROWSE.)

Before a firearms license can be issued, the applicant is required to have a strongroom or other mechanism for the safekeeping of the firearm. (Id.) If a police officer, “on the ground of information contained in a statement made under oath or affirmation,” believes that a person is a danger to himself or others, including due to his/her recklessness in handling a firearm, mental condition, propensity towards violence, or substance abuse problem, that officer may initiate a process to have the person declared unfit to possess a firearm. (Id. § 10.) In addition, a person convicted of the offense of possession of a firearm without a license; an offense during the commission of which a firearm was used; or certain other offenses such as intimidation, rape, or malicious injury to property, may be declared unfit to possess arms. (Id.)

The regulatory regime does not appear to require an applicant for a license to undergo a competency assessment of any kind, including for the purpose of ensuring that the applicant has had sufficient training to handle firearms or that he is mentally fit.

The law allows for a person to obtain a license for up to four arms at a time and permits an unlicensed person to borrow a firearm from a licensed person to whom he/she is not related for up to 21 days without permission from the authorities. (Id. §§ 3 & 8.)  

Namibia, a country of about 2.2 million people, has issued 148,000 firearms licenses since 1998. (Shinovene Immanuel, Gun Toting Namibia, THE NAMIBIAN (May 17, 2013).) In 2011, the country granted 7,100 applications for firearms licenses and rejected only 69. In 2012, 7,600 applications were approved and 109 applications rejected. (Id.) A 2007 survey estimated privately held arms in Namibia at 260,000, with the rate of 12.6 arms per 100 persons, making the country the 51st highest ranked in number of firearms per population. (Namibia — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law, INTERNATIONAL FIREARM INJURY PREVENTION AND POLICY (last visited May 20, 2013).)