Friday, May 23, 2003

U.S. to Clamp Down on Iraqi Weapons 

From: spliffslips

Military Care Packages Iraq War Updates

U.S. to Clamp Down on Iraqi Weapons

Associated Press Writer

May 23, 2003, 3:26 PM EDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A new U.S. policy aimed at drastically reducing the number of weapons in Iraq will allow people to keep guns for self defense at home but outlaw them almost everywhere else, the commander of American ground forces in Iraq said Friday.

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan said permits will be granted to keep guns at home. There will be limits on the type of weapon allowed and the bullet caliber, he said.

"The intent is not to completely disarm the Iraqi population of all weapons. That is neither practical nor necessary," McKiernan said at a news briefing.

Restricting gun ownership is likely to be extremely unpopular in Iraq, where -- as in many clan-based societies -- firearms have a special role in the national culture.

Owning a firearm is a matter of pride and a sign of manhood to many Iraqi men, especially in rural areas where tribalism and traditional values endure.

Saddam Hussein deepened the country's gun culture by appearing frequently in public with a firearm. An image of Saddam firing a rifle with one hand became an icon of his rule, depicted in thousands of posters and murals.

Disarming the population, even partially, would help fight crime in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

Thousands of Iraqis bought firearms in the run-up to the U.S.-led war. Guns stored in military armories, and looted after the collapse of Saddam's government, also found their way into the country's lucrative weapons market.

The new U.S. policy will outlaw celebratory fire, customary in Iraq during occasions like weddings and birth celebrations. There will also be restrictions on firearms carried by bodyguards.

"This country, over the last 30 years ... has become one large ammo and weapons cache," McKiernan said.

The policy is expected to take effect next month and would give Iraqis 14 days to give up their guns. McKiernan said penalties for offenders hadn't been decided, and no details were given on how the weapons would be collected.

McKiernan said security is improving in Baghdad, where U.S. forces have been criticized for failing to stem lawlessness and looting.

"Quiet is good, and every day here in Baghdad and across Iraq, (it) is quieter," McKiernan said. "Normalcy is good, and we have a lot more of both than we had a week ago."

Copyright (c) 2003, The Associated Press


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