Firearms among us

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Firearms among us

A senior police officer was shot to death after he arrived on the scene of a shooting in central Seoul yesterday. An ex-convict wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle used a homemade pistol to fatally shoot the officer on Monday. The suspect had previous convictions for sexual assault and other criminal charges. He cut off the anklet and exchanged gunfire with the police before shooting the officer. If not controlled, the shooting spree could have led to more casualties.

The incident is shocking as it means our society is not as safe as we thought from the threat of firearms. The killer possessed 17 improvised firearms, one explosive device and seven knives. That shows how easy it is to make hand-crafted guns that pose a serious threat to the security and safety of citizens.

Korea has been regarded as a country free from the danger of firearms in people’s daily lives because authorities strictly control the possession of firearms. But this suspect discovered a critical loophole on the Internet, where all the information he needed about how to make improvised guns and explosive devices is available. Simple tips on how to make weapons from easily available components are introduced in detail.

In fact, crimes involving homemade firearms occasionally have taken place in Korea. For instance, a man in his 60s was arrested in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, in September 2013 after trying to make an improvised weapon to kill his longtime girlfriend. In April of the same year in Daegu, three people, including a police officer, were injured by a mentally disturbed man in his 30s who randomly opened fire at people around him. If the police cannot crack down on the production and possession of improvised firearms due to a lack of legal recourse, it surely is a blind spot in preventing crimes related to fire weapons.

If the government wants to protect citizens from the threat of firearms, it must revise relevant laws so our law enforcement agencies can closely monitor and prevent fatal crimes. The government must first put a ban on posting and spreading any information on making improvised firearms.

The police must root out the very source of the problem by expanding the scope of Internet site shutdowns to firearms on top of drugs and pornography.

Authorities must keep a close watch on people released from jail. That’s what the monitoring devices are for. The death of a policeman signifies that their current system does not work at all. It is time for the government to revamp related laws.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 21, Page 34

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