Homs: Arms licensing law raises prices, Political Security members impose royalties
Homs – Orwah al-Mundhir
The government of the Syrian regime agreed to grant licenses to carry individual weapons only to the category of pistols, according to a law approved by the People’s Assembly on 28 February.
The approval of the government was not accompanied by securing legal sources to obtain weapons, and there are no shops licensed by the government to purchase them legally, although all citizens can apply for licenses to carry weapons in accordance with the law.
Black market dealers emerged as the most beneficiaries of the law, as those wishing to purchase and license a weapon had no choice but to buy from the black market merchants, who took advantage of the demand and raised the prices of military pistols, which rose significantly.
The licensing phase begins with handing over the weapon to the police command in the governorate, then preparing a dossier that includes personal data, a photo, and a document from the Criminal Security Branch stating that the person in question has not committed any crime and a certificate of residence.
The dossier is transferred from the police command to the Political Security Branch in the governorate, which transfers it to the security department responsible for the applicant’s place of residence to conduct the necessary security study on the applicant.
After that, the “extortion” begins by the security forces of the applicants by requesting bribes amounting to about 500,000 SYP (125 USD) in exchange for submitting their request with approval.
Those who applied for a license are keen to obtain approval for fear of losing the gun that was handed over to the police headquarters. If the approval is not obtained, the applicant loses the right to retrieve the weapon from the police station.
Increase in purchase, maintenance
The prices of weapons in the city of Homs and in all areas under the control of the regime have increased by more than 30 percent since the approval of the licensing law, according to what Enab Baladi monitored.
Moussa (Enab Baladi withheld his last name for security reasons), a resident of the town of al-Houla, told Enab Baladi that the prices of weapons have increased in an unprecedented way and have become almost scarce.
“The search for a 9mm pistol has become like looking for a needle in a haystack,” he said.
Moussa added that it was the black market dealers who reduced the display of licensable pistols in order to raise their price and achieve double profits after the licensing decision. The price of a 14-shot 9mm pistol, the famous Browning brand, rose from 4 million SYP (1000 USD) to 6 million SYP (1500 USD) amid the lack of availability.
While the prices of 7mm pistols did not increase much due to the general lack of bullets for them, he added.
Weapon repair workshops and changing their barcodes were remarkably active in the period that followed the law. Pistol owners who wish to license them resort to changing the serial numbers to remove their previous license or to ensure that there is no search warrant for the pistol.
Suleiman (Enab Baladi withheld his last name for security reasons), based in the town of al-Rastan, told Enab Baladi that he had bought a used pistol but had to change its number to avoid any problem that the pistol might cause, as the previous owners were not known.
The cost of changing the numbers and painting the pistol is currently estimated at 600,000 SYP (150 USD) after it did not exceed 200,000 SYP (50 USD) before the law was issued.
Preparing a security file for persons applying for a license to bear arms is one of the tasks of the Political Security Division, which allows its security members to impose large royalties on those applying for the license.
One of the applicants for a license, who preferred to identify himself as Nasser, from Talbiseh city, told Enab Baladi that members of the Political Security detachment asked him for 300,000 SYP (75 USD) in exchange for granting him the security approval.
Nasser added that he had to pay the amount to guarantee obtaining the license so that he could retrieve the pistol that he handed over to the Criminal Security Branch in Homs, which he bought for about 6.5 million SYP (about 1700 USD).
Former opposition fighters whose status was settled through a “reconciliation” agreement are not allowed to obtain an arms license, a member of the Political Security in Homs told Enab Baladi.
Weapons are widespread in regime-controlled areas and various regions of Syria. It is used in social occasions such as weddings or to resolve family disputes.
The regime’s Interior Ministry has set instructions for licensing weapons. “Every citizen has the right to license one combat pistol + 100 bullets in addition to two hunting rifles + 250 bullets for each rifle” for a period of five years, subject to renewal, according to the ministry’s official website.
According to the Numbeo website, which specializes in research and classification of indicators of living in countries, the Syrian capital, Damascus, ranks second in Asia in terms of crime rates after the Afghan capital, Kabul.
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