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The Texas school shooting offers foresight for Nigerians pushing for the right to bear arms

NEWS DIGEST – The dire nature of Nigeria’s security situation has nudged many Nigerians to turn to an unlikely answer: the desire to bear arms.

Given the inadequacies of security networks at protecting citizens, many consider it not irrational to say Nigerians are best placed with small arms to defend themselves against assailants of all kinds. But this week’s Uvalde school shooting in Texas offers overwhelming insight into stringent gun control measures employed by the Buhari administration.

What we know about the Uvalde school shooting

On Tuesday morning, a shooting that led to the death of 19 school children and 2 teachers brought back the divisive topic of gun control between American lawmakers.

Again, like the infamous 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, the act was perpetrated by someone aged under 21.

Eighteen-year-old Salvador Ramos, who ought to graduate high school on Friday, arrived at his school with a handgun and an assault rifle, the latter of which he bought shortly after his 18th birthday.

According to Texas authorities, Salvador had shot his grandmother before heading to school to commit the dastard act and the police are yet to determine how he placed his hands on the weapons.

Gun control in Texas

But how does an 18-year-old get access to small arms, let alone a rifle to kill 21 people?

Tuesday’s shooting was made possible because of Texas’ relaxed gun control measures, especially since the emergence of its governor, Greg Abbott, a Republican enthusiastic about gun ownership.

In Texas, anyone aged 21 or older does not require a license to carry a handgun in public. And anyone aged between 18 and 21 can buy a handgun if they meet requirements like a threat of family violence, stalking etc thanks to a rule change last year.

Why Nigerians have demanded the right to bear arms

In April, Majority Leader Alhassan Ado-Doguwa suggested Nigerians should be allowed to take arms to defend their souls, hard-earned resources and properties because of the monumental failures of security agencies in the country.

This was the aftermath of the Abuja–Kaduna train bombing that saw the death of young Dr Chinelo and several others.

“If the responsibility of the government and the security agencies cannot be carried out democratically, everyone has cause to defend themselves,” Mr Ado-Doguwa said that day.

Perhaps Mr Ado-Doguwa’s utterances were informed by emotions. Or maybe not. A day before, a former federal lawmaker, Shehu Sani, said Nigerians should be allowed to carry guns because of recent terror events.

Both Kastina and Benue state governors have also drummed support for residents to arm themselves against bandits in the past. These calls have also filtered their way into the hearts of many Nigerians who now think this may not be a bad course to chart.

Present requirements to bear arms in Nigeria

On the orders of the president, the Nigerian police stopped issuing licenses to bear firearms three years ago and have retracted licenses previously issued to civilians.

The stringent gun control measures employed by the presidency make it very difficult for any civilian to legally procure firearms.

Such an individual must be 17 yrs old and must have passed psychological evaluation, obtained a vision clearance certificate from a government hospital, a police clearance certificate, a rifle club membership, a firearms proficiency certificate and must provide his national identification number which will have a unique trace to his firearm.

Lessons from the Uvalde school shooting

The Uvalde school shooting in Texas offers some foresight to what could happen if gun control measures were relaxed on the counts of insecurity, especially in a country that’s ranked 16th in crime rate in the world.

Recent months have shown that parents may have no idea of their children’s moral and mental state. And despite modern parents’ best efforts to bridge distances between them and their wards, many children continue to keep their struggles far from their parents.

Most recently, we’ve had the Chrisland incident to teach us our children may not be children after all. Although there’s little likeliness a gun would find its way into the hands of a tween, there’s no telling what a Nigerian aged 18 or older could do with one if it was readily accessible, like in the case of young Salvador Ramos.

Despite relaxed gun measures, about 60% of Texans retain a negative perspective on gun ownership, according to a poll last April by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune.

Like Texans, a larger share of the Nigerian population and more importantly, polity, share this perspective on gun ownership, giving assurances previous calls may never see the light of day.

It’s questionable alone to think that Nigeria will be safer if everyone was allowed to bear arms to protect themselves, no matter how appealing that proposition might seem. And until mental health questions are resolutely tackled, gun ownership calls should remain minimal in a country like ours.

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