GUN-CONTROL is too important to be left to the enthusiastic amateur. But leaving it to the professionals is worse. Handing responsibility for licensing to the potential victims may be the answer.
If that sounds fatuous, consider the following: Under the present rules, a person applying for a licence to possess a firearm must show good cause why he should have one, have a safe place to store it and have undergone a course of training. What better way to fulfil those requirements - unless he or she happens to work for the disciplined services - than to be a member of a gun-club? Who better to assess the applicant's fitness and send in a letter of recommendation than a jury of his peers - fellow enthusiasts and teachers down at the club? Yet there is no set standard of training required. Any club will be proud to have as its member anyone who has paid his fees and has undergone the same training as other members. Nor, as regulations stand at present, is there any restriction on club links with gun-shops. Police suspect some clubs or officials may have a vested interest in selling guns to members. The reliability of their recommendations must be in doubt. The alternative, as well as setting unified training standards, may be to give the responsibility for assessment to qualified police firearms trainers. It is the police who are most likely to be among the victims of any gunman who runs amok. Any suspicion either on the part of the trainer or the applicant's club of a Rambo complex or mental instability should mean automatic disqualification.
New regulations are now being considered to put some of these ideas into practice. The extra security they provide in a high-stress, high-pressure society like Hong Kong is surely to be welcomed.
However, most violent crime involving firearms is committed with unlicensed weapons smuggled in from over the border. Protecting the public - and the police - from these guns will require dialogue between the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.