Westgate Mall attack triggers debate on private guns

The Westgate mall attack — in which terrorists hurled grenades and shot down civilians before staging a bloodcurdling hostage situation — has renewed debate on whether private security guards and citizens should carry arms.

This is more so because of the way in which the terrorists ambushed guards at the mall and mowed down anyone around.

And the way only a handful of civilians licensed to bear guns put up a strong show beside the few policemen who were first to arrive.

Already, those familiar with formal gun trade in Kenyasay there has since been an increase in demand for licences to bear arms, a fact directly attributed to the terrorism scare.

The Counties has established the civilians who brandished their guns against heavily armed Al Shabaab militants at the mall were part of the 5,000Kenyans holding licences to use guns for self-defence.

Majority of these guns are in the hands of politicians and prominent business operators in Nairobi, according to the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons (KNFP).

The most popular type of gun licensed is the shotgun with 2,200 having been sold compared to 1,872 handguns and 1,107 rifles.

The shotgun, The Counties has established, is very popular with hunters, especially leopard shooters because it releases a burst of bullets, which inflict multiple shots as opposed to a rifle’s single burst.

The market value of the cheapest pistol is Sh25,000 while other variety of guns and makes cost as much as Sh200,000.

The number of guns in private hands will dramatically increase if Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU) has its way.

Although the country has 400,000 guards, KNPSU’s secretary general Isaac Andabwa says his union has 50,000 members.-standardmedia.co.ke

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