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Gun fever grips capital

Gun fever grips capital

Up to 300 Phnom Penh residents apply each week to register guns at the Ministry of

National Security. On average, 100 applications are rejected.

With the exception of police and military, some 3,809 guns, including 2,874 handguns,

have been licensed to date, according to Thiem Bun Seng, deputy head of the ministry's

gun and explosives control office.

Owners include government officials, ordinary citizens and private companies and

licenses are granted in two parts: for inside and outside the house.

Those allowed to take their weapons outside include heads of government departments

and their deputies, provincial governors and deputies and executives of large companies.

More than 450 unregistered guns were confiscated at police checkpoints in the capital

in the first nine months of this year, including 135 assault rifles and 30 hand grenades.

When the Ministery of National Security recently declared a weapons "amnesty",

only two guns were handed in.

"If we don't do someting, people will continue to use or hide their guns illegally,"

Bun Seng said, adding that he has found no registered weapons being used by criminals.

Applicants for a gun license must apply to district governors and then to the ministry,

which will also re-check backgrounds before licenses are issued. The procedure usually

takes one week.

Buying a gun is a relatively simple procedure. At the army market on Pochentong Blvd

dealers can provide a selection of weapons ranging from handguns to grenade-launchers.

Handguns hold the highest price because they are easy to conceal. Prices range according

to age and condition but a good quality automatic, such as an East German Luger,

sells for around $150. Soviet and Chinese pistols often cost between $150 and $250.

Assault rifles vary in price depanding on their country of origin. Czechoslovakian

AK-47s command the best prices because of their higher quality.

American-made M-16 rifles are currently very cheap with good condition models, dating

from the Vietnam War, fetching around $20.

Heavier equipment, like grenade launchers and machine-guns, are also readily available,

often at ridiculously low prices.

Opinion is divided on the wisedom of keeping a gun at home or out in the street.

"If you buy a gun you must ask yourself are you prepared to use it," said

Julian Camp, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

"I would advise the whole of Phnom Penh not to buy a gun," he said.

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