Illegal firearms being sold as legal

Alarmingly, a section of licensed arms dealers are importing military-grade semi-automatic weapons into the country in the name of rifles and then selling them off to licensed arms holders by declaring them as rifles on paper. Law enforcers fear that this reckless practice could prove dangerous and pose a threat to the law and order of the country, and we fully agree with their analysis.

The semi-automatics being sold can hold a total of 20 bullets, five more than the standard firearms issued to law enforcers. That itself gives anyone carrying one of these an edge over them. Moreover, the Arms Rules 2016 states that the import of semi-automatic or automatic weapons is prohibited in Bangladesh. Why then have licensed arms dealers been allowed to sell these weapons, and even more importantly, how did these weapons come into the country by getting through customs in the first place?

Apparently, there are such irregularities in the arms import because there are no arms experts in customs and district commissioner offices. But how can that be the case? It is a given that the import of illegal arms is one of the greatest concerns for customs, as it relates to law and order and national security of the country. Then why does the customs department lack even one expert who can judge which firearms are legal and which ones are not? Why haven’t the authorities taken any initiative to address this?

In response to letters from the DB, six arms dealers have provided lists which suggest that they have imported 91 Uzis since 2015—and have already sold 49 of them. Currently, there are 84 licensed arms dealers in the country, and amidst such lax monitoring, one can only guess how many illegal firearms have entered the country and been sold off legally on paper.

The DB and other law enforcing agencies must investigate and find the exact number of these weapons, and also who owns them. But this can only be a stop-gap solution. Ultimately, customs must prevent these weapons from coming into the country, and the fact that it has failed so miserably in doing that is simply preposterous. Therefore, we urge the authorities to immediately assign arms experts at customs offices, and to hold anyone at customs responsible for such failure to account.

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