The National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons has initiated the process of passing a new law that addresses the current challenges that confront small arms control in Ghana and to ensure that Ghana’s small arms control laws conform to international standards and best practices.
The Commission is undertaking this project with the support of the European Union (EU) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).
In 2012, the Commission conducted a comparative study of Ghana’s Firearms Legislation vis-à-vis the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition And Other Related Materials which revealed some gaps in Ghana’s Firearms Legislation.
As a follow-up to the study, a stake holder’s conference was organized by the Commission with support from the FES on the 15th May, 2013. The objective was to share the study of the comparative analysis and brainstorm on how the gaps in Ghana’s firearms control laws can be addressed.
The conference brought together stakeholders in the security sector and small arms control such as the Military, Police, Customs, Prisons and some Civil Society Organizations.
Addressing the conference, the Deputy Minister for the Interior, Mr. James Agalga, said that Ghana had made significant progress in addressing our small arms challenges. However, to ensure that the country complies fully with international laws, conventions and practices governing global Small Arms control, there was the need to move into the next level by reviewing our domestic legislation in conformity with International standards.
He said that in view of the threat that illicit weapons continue to pose to our country, Government was “putting in place appropriate strategies to address the menace of small arms proliferation through the National Commission on Small Arms & Light Weapons. These include the establishment of a national database which will capture records of small arms imported into the country through the points of entry, the transfer of such arms to third parties and records of individuals legally acquiring arms.
Mr. Agalga reiterated Government’s determination to prevent instability as a result of illicit manufacture and trading in small arms, and pledged Government’s commitment to continue to collaborate with other States, the ECOWAS and other International bodies to promote initiatives that focus on checking the illicit trafficking of small arms in the sub-region.
The Resident Director of FES-Ghana, Daniella Kuzu, said that security was necessary for a stable democracy. She stated that security threats – internal as well as external – could hinder economic and social development, destroy the cultural roots of a country and restrict the human rights of all citizens.
Ms Kuzu observed that even though Ghana was seen as one of the most stable countries in West Africa, it was surrounded by neighbours who had been struggling with armed conflicts for decades. She advised that security issues had to be discussed in order to find ways of preventing crisis and the appropriate ways of intervention if such incidences occurred.
Currently, the legislation on firearms in Ghana are: Act 118 of 1962, L. I. 200 of 1962, L.I 277 and 315 of 1963, NRCD 9 of 1972, Act 519 of 1996, Act 604 of 2001 and PNDCL 71.
In spite of the existence of the above legal framework, there are major impediments in firearms control due to the existence of the gaps in Ghana’s firearms legislation Whereas the laws have outlived their usefulness, they also do not conform to international standards. For example, one key prerequisite to preventing illicit diversion of weapons under the ECOWAS Convention is to mark them in an easily identifiable and coherent manner and to maintain effective and reliable databases of the marked weapons and their legal transfers, so that any illegally diverted weapons can be traced back to the point of diversion. This provision, however, has not been incorporated into any of our national legislation on small arms control.
Again, there is no requirement under the current law for a competency test or training of prospective owners of firearms prior to licensing of a firearm nor has a legal regime been provided for the provision of facilities for such testing or training or the involvement of the private sector in such engagements.
These examples and many other deficits in the existing legal framework for small arms control have hampered effective small arms control in Ghana hence the need for legislative reforms to address the gaps in gun control laws to make Ghana safer and more secure.
The Commission will carefully study the report of the comparative analysis and recommendations from the conference and engage consultants to draft a new law that addresses all the weaknesses in Ghana’s legislation on firearms control. Several consultations will be held with stakeholders, identifiable groups and the general public across the country on the draft law for their input.
The final draft of the bill will be presented to the Minister for the Interior and Attorney General’s Department for onward submission to Cabinet and Parliament to be passed into law.