Gun control: Crackdown on fake arms licence makers delayed

Original Story Via:  The Express Tribune
LAHORE: The city government has decided to delay a crackdown on makers of fake arms licences till it can gather more evidence on which weapons dealers are involved, The Express Tribune has learnt.

City government officials said that after Eid, they would invite holders of weapons licences made after July 2010 to get their licences verified at the district coordination officer’s (DCO) office. In July 2010, the government started issuing computerised weapons licences with watermarks and other security features.

However, the Licence Branch at the DCO’s office has confiscated some 800 fake licences in the last five months from citizens who had voluntarily come to get their licences verified. These fake licences were made after July 2010, but were prepared manually. Government officials believe that the licences were issued by licensed weapons dealers.

Tariq Zaman, the personal staff officer to the DCO, said that the city government had decided to delay a crackdown on the makers of the fake licences until it had gathered more evidence.

“Even fake licences carry the dealer’s stamp. The more licences we can look at, the more we will get to know of the arms dealers involved. The decision has been made to lodge FIRs against these dealers so we want to get as much information as possible,” he said.

He said that anyone who turned in a fake licence for verification voluntarily would not be prosecuted. But a gun owner who did not turn in their licence for verification and was later caught would be prosecuted, he said.

An official said that there were a total of 55 licensed weapons dealers in the city. He said no new arms sale licences were being issued and these licences were not transferable. He said that the city government knew of around 10 dealers who were involved in preparing fake licences for their customers.

The official said that under the rules, a new gun licence costs around Rs5,000 and the process must be initiated by the licence seekers themselves.

The licence is supposed to be ready in 45 days, but applicants usually have to wait around three months.

An official in the DCO’s office, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said that the fake licence holders had claimed that they had obtained the licences through their arms dealers.

Most of them had paid Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 for the licences and had received them in a week.

According to the official procedure, applicants for weapon licences must first get a form, fill it out and get a picture taken at the Licence Branch.

The form must be signed by the DCO, or the official assigned the task by the DCO. The form is then sent to the capital city police officer’s office, which returns the application to the DCO.

The file is then sent to the Pakistan Security Printing Press, Karachi, where the licence is made.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2012.