Business is booming at Baghdad gun shops after arms control rethink
After years of tight rules, Baghdad has decided to relax laws on selling and possession of weapons, which some Iraqis say will ‘decrease crime’
In the middle of Baghdad’s busy commercial neighbourhood of Karrada, where most shops sell home appliances, consumers can now also buy handguns and semi-automatic rifles legally for the first time in decades.
After the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, illegal weapons trade flourished across the country.
Looted guns from ransacked police stations and military bases were sold on the street and public areas to residents wanting to protect themselves in a state that was largely lawless.
The authorities have since been battling to curb illegal weapon sales and the government has stepped up efforts to control gun ownership through regulation.
The latest initiative came into force this summer and allows people to own and carry handguns, semi-automatic rifles and other weapons after obtaining official authorisation and an identity card that also details the individual’s weapons.
Previously, gun sales were restricted to firearms for hunting and sport.
Hamza Maher opened his new gun shop in Karrada after receiving official approval from the Interior Ministry and says demand for his wares has increased.
“Customers are mainly men, but the number of women buyers is growing,” said Maher inside his shop, where a variety of pistols and rifles are on display.
“The reason for buying is self-defence, and it’s safer for citizens to buy a weapon from an authorised store instead of from an unknown source.”
Pistol prices in Maher’s shop range from US$1,000 to US$4,000, while Kalashnikov rifles can be had from as little as US$400 up to US$2,000, depending on the brand and manufacturing origin, he said.
Haider al-Suhail, a tribal sheikh from Baghdad, welcomed the legalisation of gun shops.
“Yes, it will decrease crime,” he said on a visit to Maher’s shop to buy rifles for his ranch guards. “The criminal who plans to attack others will understand that he will pay heavy price.”