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September 25, 2017

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Strict gun control to stay

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The government has decided to maintain the present tight gun control despite a call for liberalizing the regulations on owning lethal weapons to help people defend themselves.

Legislator Yu Tien of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party urged the government yesterday to follow the U.S. practice of easing the rules to allow law-abiding citizens to own handguns to protect themselves.

Yu said that gun smuggling is "quite common" in Taiwan, which he said not only enables gangsters and the wealthy to buy guns easily but also boosts the price of illegal firearms on the black market.

Possession of firearms by the general public would be a great deterrence against mob activities, he claimed.

In response, Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah said the government will not consider legalizing gun ownership by the country's citizens.

Jiang said the disadvantages of allowing private gun ownership far outweigh the benefits and that the ministry may only consider allowing guards at security firms to carry firearms because of the special nature of their jobs.

National Police Agency (NPA) Director-General Wang Cho-chiun pointed out that social order in Taiwan is not so bad that people need guns to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, Yeh Yu-lan, an associate professor at Central Police University, expressed opposition to allowing legal ownership of firearms by citizens, including security guards.

Although there are still debates over whether the citizens should be allowed to bear arms for self defense, there are nonetheless more than 5,000 legally privately owned handguns in the country, according to statistics released by the NPA.

Of the total number of privately-owned guns, 1,000 are for self-defense and 4,000 are used by aboriginal people for hunting purposes, according to the agency.

But the number of privately-owned guns has been decreasing year on year because of strict domestic regulations on private ownership of firearms, an agency official added.

The Statute for Management of Self-Defense Firearms was originally enacted as many people brought guns with them when they moved to Taiwan from mainland China along with the Kuomintang government at the end of the World War II after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communists.

Under the statute, people who own private arms are required to receive a regular inspection every two years as well as random inspections anytime by the police.

In most cases, the old guns or rifles held 60 years ago are now allowed to be replaced with new ones without requiring any valid reasons. This causes a natural attrition of such guns held in private hands.

Concerning a proposal of allowing guards at security firms to carry firearms to protect themselves and their cash-delivery vans, executives at leading security firms expressed reservations over the suggestion.

They said it will become a greater management challenge to ensure that the guards can use the firearms responsibly.

Holding lethal weapons can actually generate greater risks for the guards because armed criminals are tempted to put the guards to death in robbery or other lawless attempts, they said.

They noted that more weapons held by security guards will also expose them to severe risks of being robbed by outlaws who want to snatch the guns and sell them on black market for immediate profits.

Professor Yeh at the police university also opposed easing the rules for security guards.

She pointed out there are presently strict criteria for qualified people who can legally possess and use the weapons.

But easing the rules will make many guards disqualified for the security job and make the unemployment problems in Taiwan even worse, she said.

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