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Our View: Gun control is becoming a real issue in Cyprus

THE NUMBER of shooting incidents being reported lately is rather worrying. Although there are no police statistics for this year, reports would suggest that some men are using their army issue rifle or shotgun to resolve differences, a bit too readily.

Earlier this month, a 51-year-old man chased two men he suspected of stealing his mobile from his car and fired at them with his shotgun that had been in his car. One of the suspected phone thiefs was shot in the backside and needed hospital treatment. A week or so later, a 32-year-old man fired a shot in the air with his army issue rifle, outside the House of Representatives in protest against the recession and the austerity measures.

The latter obviously had no intention to threaten or hurt anyone, the firing of a single shot being more a show of despair and frustration – he had reportedly been unemployed for some time. Incidents such as these should cause concern to the authorities because with the economic downturn continuing there could be a few desperate people, among the tens of thousands of gun owners, inclined to use their guns. And we cannot be sure the next man will fire his gun in the air as well.

Those who say that Cypriots with guns at home – National Guard reservists or hunters – had always behaved very responsibly are right. But that was during an extended period of general affluence and social harmony. We live in very different times now, times in which people are under considerable economic and social pressure and less likely to deal rationally with the mounting problems they are facing.

The defence ministry, National Guard, the police and state medical services had a meeting in October to discuss ways of gathering information on problem cases, but a campaign that is supposed to depend on community leaders and members of the public tipping off the authorities about men unfit to have a gun is unlikely to be very successful. The meeting was held after the tragic incident of a 32-year-old man shooting dead his estranged wife, with his army rifle, and then killing himself. He also wounded his daughter.

It was this incident that made the meeting necessary and not because the authorities were concerned over so many thousands of men keeping guns in their houses. Inevitably, the defence ministry repeated routine advice to reservists, about keeping a gun in a safe place, separate from the ammo. It was the sort of superficial response, expected from a ministry that did not know how to handle a rather difficult matter.

The truth is there is no formula to tackle the matter, other than stopping reservists keeping an army rifle at home. But it is doubtful the government would take such a decision. We just hope it is not forced upon it by another tragedy.

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