The National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons (NACSA) has revealed that about 2.3 million small arms are in civilian hands, according to a survey conducted by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in 2014.
It said out of the figure, 1.1 million remained unregistered, with 1.2 million registered with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.
Mr Gyebi Asante, a Senior Programme Officer of the Commission, who told the Ghana News Agency in Accra, said Police records showed that less than 100,000 licences of the 1.2 million registered firearms are renewed annually.
In view of that, he said, the CID had digitised the registration of civilian firearms and devising a system that would enable the Police to track licensed gun owners who do not renew their licences for compliance.
He added that the system would also facilitate easy renewal of licences online without gun owners necessarily trekking to the Police districts for renewal.
This, he said, would enable the Police to keep a proper database of all licensed gun owners in the country and track any missing registered firearm.
He said even though it costs only GH¢10.00 to renew licences for short guns, most licensed gun owners failed to renew their licences.
He wondered whether or not the gun owners considered it an inconvenience going to the Police station or district to renew the licences.
Mr. Asante said that the Police Service was mandated to register civil category small arms in the country, but the Commission complemented the Police’s efforts by engaging in public education and sensitization for Ghanaians to understand the procedures involved in acquiring firearms for legitimate personal use as well as promote responsible gun ownership.
He added that the Commission also created awareness among Ghanaians on the dangers and security threats posed by the proliferation and misuse of small arms to the country’s peace and security, as well as Ghana’s fledgling democracy and socio-economic development.
More so, he said, the Commission educated the public on the laws regulating arms and ammunition in the country and the implications of possessing arms without authority.
Mr Asante identified some of the sources of proliferation of small arms in Ghana and within the ECOWAS Region.
He mentioned the country’s porous entry points that aided in smuggling, illegal manufacture of firearms by some blacksmiths and theft of state owned weapons from armouries of some Security Agencies within ECOWAS member states as major sources of proliferation.
The Commission, he said, in an attempt to address the proliferation problem, has written proposals to donor agencies for support to provide the Security Agencies manning the borders with scanners and other state-of-the-art equipment to facilitate easy detection of smuggled arms, ammunition and explosives through the borders.
He said in addition, the Commission is mobilising blacksmiths into associations or cooperative societies so that their activities could be monitored closely to reduce the artisanal manufacture of arms in the country.
He indicated that the Commission had mobilized blacksmiths in the Ashanti, Central, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions into associations and intended to replicate it across the country.
He said with the requisite resources and support, the Commission would facilitate technical and financial support for the associations and provide them with requisite training in order to manufacture quality household items, farming implements, auto parts, hospital screens, metal beds among others.
He said the objective was to sensitise them on the dangers involved in the illegal manufacture of arms, foster relationship with blacksmiths and involve them in the fight against artisanal arms production through collaboration, and support them to channel their skills and energies into meaningful ventures, rather than producing firearms that are used for criminal activities, with the ultimate goal of reducing and controlling the manufacture of artisanal small arms in the country.
Mr Gyebi Asante said he believed that legalising production of arms should be industrial or company based and through the cottage industry, but not through the typical traditional blacksmithing industry in Ghana that would make regulation challenging.