Istanbul alcohol store murders expose prevalence of unregistered firearms in Türkiye-Xinhua

Istanbul alcohol store murders expose prevalence of unregistered firearms in Türkiye

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2023-08-05 01:02:15

A licensed arms dealer is seen examining a gun on Aug. 4, 2023 at a gun shop in Ankara, Türkiye. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)

ANKARA, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- The recent murders that took place in an alcohol store in Istanbul, Türkiye's most populous province, have highlighted the prevalence of unregistered guns and gun-related violence in the country despite police measures.

A group of armed men raided an alcohol store late on July 28 in the Esenyurt district of the Istanbul Province, which is known for its high crime rate, and killed two men and injured another.

After the murders, four suspects have been detained with unregistered guns in a large-scale police operation that was closely followed by the media.

This photo taken on Aug. 4, 2023 shows guns in a gun shop in Ankara, Türkiye. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)

The incident went viral as camera footage showed gruesome details of the murder in the province of 15 million people, sending shockwaves across the country and also putting into the spotlight the issue of unregistered arms and gun violence.

Individual armament is not a new problem in Türkiye and experts have in the past urged policymakers to enact stricter laws regarding licensed gun ownership and more deterrent measures against unregistered weapons.

Ayhan Akcan, an activist against gun violence and a psychiatrist from Istanbul, said that incidents of armed violence increase by 5 percent each year in Türkiye where there are around 36 million unlicensed guns.

"Figures are increasing every year despite current laws and regulations that restrict citizens to own a firearm," said Akcan, who is also a member of the Umut Foundation, a non-governmental organization founded in the 1990s to raise awareness about individual armament.

This photo taken on Aug. 4, 2023 shows guns in a gun shop in Ankara, Türkiye. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)

"Around 70 percent of gun owners are under 40," Akcan cited figures of the foundation, explaining that owning a firearm is relatively easy, even purchasable on the internet.

The Umut Foundation's 2022 Türkiye Armed Violence Report reveals that at least 18,769 people lost their lives in incidents involving individual firearms in the past five years.

Istanbul is the province where the highest number of armed attacks occurred, followed by the southern province of Adana and the northern Black Sea province of Samsun, the report said.

Gun ownership is submitted to strict laws in Türkiye, where background checks are carried out by police before people can acquire a license to own and carry a firearm. Yet incidents related to unregistered arms are on the rise, according to the foundation.

In Akcan's view, the lack of heavy punishment for carrying unlicensed firearms also contributed to the high number of gun-related incidents and murders.

However, the Turkish Interior Ministry has said that the number of incidents and deaths involving guns has decreased in the past five years as a result of a more vigilant approach to unregistered gun possession.

"While the number of incidents was 1,730 in 2017, it is reported that this number decreased to 1,491," an official statement said on July 31.

A pistol held by a licensed arms dealer is seen in a gun shop in Ankara, Türkiye on Aug. 4, 2023. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya has promised to address the scourge of gun violence. "Our fight against crime and criminals will go on unabated," he tweeted two days after the Esenyurt murders.

For Akcan, there is still much work to be done as "there is a gun in almost one in three houses."

Akcan noted that the 5-year license renewal period is too long and authorities should introduce heavier penalties for unregistered firearm owners.

There is also the psychological aspect of gun violence and illegal gun possession in Türkiye, the expert said.

"People who feel helpless are more likely to want to acquire a gun," Akcan said, adding that popular TV shows about mafia operations that feature violence and weaponry may also increase demand for firearms. 


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