, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 8 – With the growing cases of misuse of firearms by licensed civilians, stakeholders want the Firearms Act to be amended to make the vetting process more robust, such that other than the security evaluation of an individual, one will also undergo psychiatric examination.
Such examination, they say, should also cover members of the disciplined forces to avoid incidents where firearm users turn against other people or themselves.
National Gun Owners Association of Kenya Chairperson Anthony Wahome says it is time to seal all legal loopholes while emphasising the need for mental check-up for firearm holders, before and after one is licensed.
“It is incumbent upon us as a country to now put in place the necessary mechanism, be it in law or otherwise,” he said during an interview with Capital FM News.
In the disciplined forces, he says this could start as early as during the recruitment exercise.
“It is important that a psychiatric examination is undertaken to everyone who is expected to handle a firearm. That is where we are going. There are several countries that have followed this, with good results,” he asserted.
Currently, the vetting process only entails security officers and other members of the firearms board, and lacks medical personnel.
The plea came after Wednesday’s incident where a licensed firearm holder shot dead a nurse who was attending to him, though police say he was mentally ill but has since been arrested and charged in court, and his Ceska pistol with eight rounds of ammunition confiscated.
Kevin Muringe, the nurse charge of the facility told police that he found, “the patient shouting for help whereas the deceased nurse was lying in a pool of blood with a gun wound on the head and a shotgun on the top of the table.”
He was to relieve his colleague, the nurse who was killed, who had been on the day shift.
“What would be amusing in killing someone…in this case, a doctor attending to you? ” Wahome wondered.
– Role of the family –
Even with legal loopholes, Wahome says family members should notify police or any other authority if a relative who is a licensed firearm becomes mentally unstable.
“As a family, the least we can do, if you know of a family member who is licensed as a firearm owner, and he starts exhibiting intemperate habits or become of unsound mind, before the rest of the world knows, it will be incumbent upon them to make this information available either to the nearest police station or to the firearm licensing board to stop such an action from happening,” he said.
As an association, he said members are engaged in numerous training sessions for proficiency.
“We interact a lot with one another and before one become of unsound mind, there is a red flag,” he said.
– Cases of police turning guns against each other –
On June 22, an Administration Police officer shot dead two of his colleagues in Baringo County in unclear circumstances.
On February 22, an Administration Police officer shot dead his colleague and injured another one before killing himself in Embakasi’s Tassia area, within Nairobi County.
On December 4, 2016, a Police officer on Saturday night shot his wife – who was also a member of the service – dead in Tharaka Nithi.
Available statistics show that up to three police officers are shot and injured or killed by their colleagues every month, raising serious concerns in the country.
On July 14, 2016, an officer went on a shooting spree killing six colleagues during a day-long siege at Kapenguria Police Station.
He also shot and killed a Recce Squad officer who was among an elite team that stormed the station on a rescue mission that eliminated him.
There are also cases where Police officers have shot themselves dead, an example being at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where a female Police officer Gaudencia Wausi Muinde killed herself in the toilet using a pistol on August 24, 2016.
Postings on her Facebook page prior to the incident showed that she was frustrated and had alluded to taking her own life.
On November 7, 2010, a police officer in a jealous rage shot dead 10 people in a rampage through two bars in Siakago early on Sunday before giving himself up for arrest.
The officer shot and killed two of his police colleagues in a bar, before running amok in another bar nearby, killing eight civilians.
Months later, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet is yet to make public a task force report on such killings that have been linked to poor working conditions, trauma among other reasons.
The disharmony between junior officers and their seniors has also been identified as a contributory factor to the worrying trend.
A senior Police officer aware of recommendations in the inquiry report on police shootings of colleagues told Capital FM News that poor working conditions, low pay and low morale is to blame for most of the cases.
But with a frequent psychiatric examination, such cases, Wahome believes can be stopped.