Cyprus Mail
Crime Cyprus

New guidelines on gun ownership near completion

NEW guidelines to monitor and deal with aggressive or unstable gun owners who could be a threat to others will be ready soon, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said on Wednesday.

The appointed committee which includes the defence, health, labour and interior ministers has completed the list of guidelines though some details are still pending, said Hasikos.

Under the new procedures, officials from each ministry represented on the committee will help “deal with individuals presenting violent behaviour thus becoming dangerous both for others and for themselves”, Hasikos said.

“The weapons possessed by civilians – army reservists or hunters – reach tens of thousands,” he said. He said there are 80,000 hunters alone, and that “weapons have been taken away from hunters too”.

The guidelines will include instructions for locating potentially dangerous gun owners from members of the public, through the mental health department, and through family member contact with other state services.

Central to the system will be police records on those not allowed to possess firearms, such as those convicted for robbery, drug offences and other crimes. This data, he said, will be given to the National Guard and the Game and Fauna Fund.

“We believe that in this way, we will help to greatly tackle the phenomenon of arms possession by individuals with violent or delinquent behaviour.”

He said that even in the last two and a half years, since the new guidelines had been partially implemented, some firearms had been taken away.

A series of shootings in recent years have highlighted the need for new regulations on gun ownership.
In October last year of a 19-year-old conscript from Limassol was shot dead by his father over an argument over the family car. At the time, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said that even though police may confiscate arms under the Firearms Law, it had no control over army-issue rifles.

In August 2014, 35-year-old Christos Eleftheriou shot and killed his ex-wife, 31, with a hunting gun in front of their two children. He then fled to a nearby wooded area and shot himself. Eleftheriou had been committed to a psychiatric hospital with anger management issues but was released without the mental services notifying the police. Mental services officials had said that they had notified the army to take away Eleftheriou’s rifle but didn’t coordinate with the police.

In a similar incident in June of the same year, a 41-year-old father of two shot and killed his estranged wife, 35, and his nine-year old daughter using his army issue G3 rifle. He also shot and critically injured his son, 14, who managed to survive the rampage.

The man shot his wife through the windshield of her car and then shot his daughter while she was trying to get out. He chased down his son to a nearby plot where he shot him twice from behind, injuring his lung and leg. Standing over his son’s body, the man then took his own life.

The incident caused uproar, with people going as far as demanding that reservists hand their army rifles back. Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides had to publicly intervene, saying that the army was looking into ways of ensuring that reservists who were given rifles were stable and that taking the guns away wasn’t a solution since Cyprus is still under occupation.

The army issues rifles to anyone who serves in the military during their mandatory service.
As the law currently stands, police can only intervene after substantial evidence is presented to suggest that the person in question is a potential threat and can only confiscate the gun with a court order.

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