MPs call for mental test for gun holders

Friday, August 13th, 2021 00:00 | By
Limuru MP Peter Mwathi.

Members of the National Assembly have proposed amendments to the Firearms and National Police Service Acts to make it mandatory for all  applicants for licences to hold firearms to be subjected to mental assessment.

In a report tabled in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the Committee on Administration and National Security also calls for changes to the law and policy on use of firearms to provide for arrest and prosecution of persons accused of misuse of firearms.

The committee chaired by Limuru MP Peter Mwathi is concerned that existing law does not adequately regulate the use of firearms.

“There is need to review and amend the Firearms Act Cap 114, the National Police Service Act No 11A of 2011, the law and policy on the use of firearms and on arrest and prosecution of persons accused of misuse of firearms and any other relevant law,” the report reads.

“Comparable jurisdictions worldwide point towards a move for tighter regulations on the use of firearms including mental assessment of potential firearm holders in order to guarantee public safety and security,” the MPs add in the report.

The lawmakers argue that having tighter regulations on the use of firearms will guarantee public safety and security.

They argued that apart from lack of a mental examination report, the current laws also lack provisions requiring all applicants to possess firearms licences, a proper definition on what constitutes the legal use of firearm as well as legal protection for legal firearm holders.

The MPs said the regulations fail to prescribe the circumstances under which a legal firearm holder could use their firearm, do not give a justifiable definition of a firearm and do not provide a legal framework  for self-regulation.

Recommendations by the Mwathi committee is a response to a petition tabled in the National Assembly by Dr Mareko Machanga who is a consultant psychiatrist at the Kenyatta National Hospital who proposed amendments to the Firearms Act to provide for the protection of legal use of firearms and mental examination of prospective firearm holders.

Proposed amendments

“All firearm seekers shall undergo mental examinations as a precondition to acquiring a firearms licence,” said Machanga in the petition.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who appeared before the committee, however, said mandatory mental examination of all firearm licence applicants was not necessary as it is taken care of in the application for civilian firearms regimes. 

Matiang’i said the Firearms Licensing Board has a checklist that enumerates the mandatory requirements to be met, including mental/psychiatrist assessment for all applicants at the point of applying for a firearm licence.

“The applicant appears first at their respective sub-county and county security intelligence committees, and thereafter to the regional security and intelligence committee for vetting, before being recommended by the Firearms Licensing Board.

At every stage, the committees must appraise a mental assessment report before further review,” Matiang’i told the committee.

The National Gun Owners Association of Kenya (NGAO) told the committee that there is need for an amendment to section 2 Cap 114 to provide for definition of various terms  facilitate better compliance, cooperation, coordination and security.

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