Sat, 13 Aug 1994

Plan for strict gun control gets a shot in the arm

By Lewa Pardomuan

JAKARTA (JP): Leading lawyers and criminologists throw their weight behind the proposal by authorities to tighten the use of fire arms amidst signs of increasing abuses of their use, including in crimes.

The lawyers said that the government must move fast to tighten the regulations before the situation gets out of control.

Frans Hendra Winarta of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) said the authorities should act before it's too late.

Frans warned that without stricter regulations on the possession and use of fire arms, more and more people will be pondering about owning guns, either for committing crimes or for the purpose of self defense.

It was Jakarta Military Chief Maj. Gen. Hendropriyono himself who last month proposed that the authorities tighten regulations on the licensing of fire arms, currently the task of the police.

Hendro made the suggestion within a week after he nearly fell victim to a senseless shooting when an annoyed driver fired shots at his car on the Jagorawi toll road. Fortunately for Hendro, the car was bullet-proof.

The shooter turned out to be a senior immigration official who appeared to have been annoyed when Hendro's car overtook his.

The official, identified as Bambang, who was later captured at his home in Bogor, West Java, was apparently unaware that it was a military commander's car behind him.

Frans describes the incident as an "anarchy" and a "show of masochism," which could happen any time to anyone in the absence of tighter gun regulation.

He said that harsh economic conditions often force people to commit crimes, including violent ones.

Frans said that tightening the screening of would-be users should also include checks on mental health.


Crimes involving the use of fire arms are still few and far between in Indonesia judging from newspaper reports. But in March, the Jakarta Police uncovered a crime gang specializing in gun sales. There have also been reports that some Army or police officers had loaned their guns to others that later turned out to have been used for crimes.

Leading human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis believes that the regulations on gun use are already clear but what is lacking is their enforcement.

The regulations should be strictly implemented so that people would not misuse their private weapons.

"I can't imagine if it is not regulated," he said.

Fire arms possession and use are regulated in a 1951 legislation. By law, illegal possession of fire arms carries a maximum death penalty.

Hendro says he believes there are a number of unauthorized people who posses firearms and that there was a tendency among those who legally owned firearms to use the weapons in an irresponsible manner.

"We shall intensify inspections because people are inclined to abuse them. They must know that firearms are dangerous. They can be lethal if they are in the hands of people who do not understand their real functions," said the two-star general.

Mulya said life in the metropolis can force people to live under constant strain which should be considered before granting permission for somebody to possess guns.

He said that ideally, people should put their trust in the police to provide them with protection.

A professor in criminal law, Mardjono Reksodipoetro shared Mulya's opinion that the problem is one of enforcement and of more adequate policing.

He said the average Indonesian shuns fire arms even for self defense in sharp contrast to the United States, where it might be considered normal for people to possess their own guns.

Mulyana W. Kusumah, a leading criminologist with the YLBHI, said that inspections of people who possess illegal weapons would be a success if regulations were also fully implemented.

Mulyana said the culture of violence was growing given the fact that people tended to react violently if annoyed.

He said that shooting could not be categorized as a form of protection because it is an active action on the part of the doers which leads to violence.