Individuals seeking to purchase or hire personal firearms are free to do so provided they meet the set criteria, the Commissioner in Charge of Private Security Organisations-PSOs and Firearms, Charles Ssebambulidde, has said. Shortly after taking over from General Kale Kayihura in March 2018, Martin Okoth Ochola, the Inspector General of Police, banned civilians from getting rifles and told OC stations and District Police Commanders to arrest anyone who had a gun without permission.
However, Ssebambulidde says that civilians are now free to apply for private firearms provided they are prepared to go through the tedious process. He says that it is up to the person who wants to get a permit to show that they are in danger or that they need to protect themselves better by having a deadly weapon.
“If your reasons are not convincing enough or if the team clandestinely tasked to probe your conduct unearths a hidden side, police would immediately cancel the application or withdraw the weapon even after it has just been issued,” he said. According to Ssebambulidde, for one to acquire a rifle, the process starts with buying a police form 98 at a cost of 50,000 shillings. The applicant’s information is written on the form and sent to the Inspector General of Police by the Commissioner of Police in charge of Private Security and Firearms.
“PF 98 can only be accessed from the Police Revenue Office. It must be filled in triplicate. ” “You must be trained by the directorate of human resource development and you must have a proforma invoice from a registered [gun] dealer,” Ssebambulidde explains. He didn’t say, though, how long someone would have to wait after meeting all the requirements to own their own gun.
Ssebambulidde didn’t also explain why many applicants in the last four to five years were denied licences after fulfilling all the requirements. Before URN sought an audience with Ssebambulidde, there was information indicating that over 17,000 applications have been pending since 2018. There was also information indicating that the number of guns in the hands of civilians has increased from over 3,000 in 2016 to nearly 5,000 as of today.
“There was an audit done last year on guns in the hands of private security companies and civilians. I want to tell you we had records showing over 4,900 people had already acquired guns and private security companies had over 23,000 guns, “a police source who preferred anonymity said.
Ssebambulidde said statistics of civilians owning weapons, pending applications as well as districts with the highest number of people owning guns or seeking to acquire guns are regarded as classified information. Over five years ago, the Philippine Police and its line ministry of Internal Affairs last gave updates on guns in the hands of civilians and private security organisations. At the time, 19,000 guns were legally held by private security guards and civilians. The private security companies had 16,000, 9,000 of which had been hired by the police, while civilians had more than 3,000.
The regulation of small and light weapons is superintended by the National Focal Point (NFP) under the ministry of internal affairs. Simon Peter Mundeyi, who works as a spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, did not answer or return calls from our reporter when she tried to talk to him.
“The national focal point is also mandated to cover awareness programs, gun marking activities, destruction of guns, and capacity building of officers and stakeholders.” “The NFP also disseminates national policy on firearms and incidental matters,” the statement on the ministry of internal affairs website reads in part. Other requirements that individuals must meet in order to acquire guns include presenting recommendations from Local Councils One and Two, as well as the District Security Committee. You must also have a valid certificate of good conduct from Interpol and Forensics.
In December 2019, Police Spokesperson, Fred Enanga, who was quoting a report by the committee that was set up to electronically register all guns in the hands of government security agencies, private organizations, and civilians and that was chaired by now retired AIGP Edward Osiru Ochom, said 57,171 guns had been registered.