King said to be concerned by festive firing at celebrations, but others cite terrorism
Members of Jordan’s lower house are working to push forward a bill that would prevent citizens from purchasing automatic or semi-automatic firearms, even if they are to be used for hunting. The legislation does not grandfather in those who already own such weapons, forcing people with legal permits to hand them over to the authorities.
It is said that a big reason for this reform revolves around King Abdullah II, who is cracking down on festive firing at celebrations. In many Middle Eastern nations, it is customary to fire weapons into the air to mark weddings, births or deaths. The issue is that the bullets often hit people, injuring or even killing them.
A 2017 survey conducted by gunpolicy.org indicated that 1.47 million of Jordan’s almost 10 million population possessed at least one automatic or semi-automatic firearm. About 80% of these people had purchased the weapons legally, meaning they will have to surrender them – for “fair compensation,” according to the proposed legislation – within six months of the first day of enforcement.
Prof. Grant Reeher, of Syracuse University in New York State, specializes in gun politics and policy.
“It does seem that the media coverage of the mass shootings in the US does inform some of the thinking and the responses of leaders elsewhere when they have a mass shooting incident in their own country,” he told The Media Line in an email. They do not want to become “like the US” in this regard.
Reeher explained that in the US, rifles and shotguns account for a very small percentage of gun homicides, and because of this, bans on specific rifle types don’t do much to keep people safe. He added that handguns were the primary weapon driving up the statistics, but it’s the mass shootings with automatic or semi-automatic weapons that get the attention from politicians and the public.
Omar Raddad, a Jordanian consultant and retired general who served in military intelligence, said the primary justification for the law has to do with the use of automatic weapons in terrorist operations in Jordan in the past few years.
“Security investigations have shown that the terrorists obtained these weapons, especially [Russian-made] Kalashnikovs and the US[-made] M16, from local arms dealers,” he said.
The use of weapons at celebrations or for revenge attacks between families or tribes is only a secondary justification, he believes.
Dr. Saud Al-Sharafat, a Jordanian analysist and former senior intelligence officer, told The Media Line: “The motive behind this new law is the chaos of carrying arms in Jordan, which is a phenomenon that spread after the Arab Spring and [with] the civil war in Syria, as well as big talk about the black market.”
The question, Sharafat believes, is one of enforcement.
“We have some good laws in Jordan and they [could be a] deterrent but are not implemented,” he said, “which leads us to the question: Are the government and its security forces going to completely implement the law on everyone? If so, the law is going to help in solving the problem, as [no] Jordanian [will] be above the law.”
“It is certain that implementation of the new law will contribute to a reduction of levels of violence and crime provided that the government is committed to its implementation fairly and professionally,” he said.
Raddad added that there was no way to measure true sentiment among the general public, although there had already been a reaction on social media.
“Social networking sites and Jordanian bloggers have highlighted their rejection of the new law, claiming it does not come in the context of confronting crime and terrorism, but is for political reasons,” he said.
Sharafat says it won’t be a walk in the park.
“I don’t think the Jordanians who own arms are going to hand over their weapons easily,” he stated, “but when the government starts implementing the law, they will have to commit to it.”
According to the most recent statistics on gun fatalities in Jordan, compiled in 2012, they account for 1.4 out of every 100,000 deaths, according to gunpolicy.org.