Psychiatrist Dr. Ayhan Akcan, a board member of the Umut (Hope) Foundation, an NGO aiming to raise awareness about gun ownership, has stated that only 4 million out of the 40 million guns in Turkey are licensed, with one in every two people possessing a firearm, the Milliyet daily reported on Tuesday.
The surge in ownership of unlicensed firearms has come into the spotlight following an attack at a liquor store in the Esenyurt district of İstanbul that resulted in the loss of two lives on July 28.
Akcan told Milliyet that there’s a gun in every third household in Turkey, with nine out of every 10 guns unlicensed.
According to Akcan, 70 percent of gun owners in Turkey are under the age of 40, with the highest usage observed among young adults around 25 years old.
“While gun-related suicides used to rank seventh among teenagers, they’re now in second place. Even teenagers can easily access [firearms]. Guns are used in 18 out of every 100 cases related to violence against women and femicides. This is a very serious figure,” Akcan said.
Highlighting that there is an increase not only in the use of firearms in homicides but also in robberies, Akcan stated that amendments need to be made to Law No. 6136 on Firearms, Knives and Other Weapons.
“Despite the government’s efforts to implement significant regulations for obtaining licenses, this problem remains unresolved. … The accessibility and prevalence of firearms, along with the lack of proper supervision and training and the lengthy 5-year license renewal period, all contribute to the increase in firearm-related violence,” he added.
The expert said it is “essential” to release a public service announcement about the issue along with establishing an emergency hotline.
Lawyer Özlem Şen, a faculty member at Aydın University, also told Milliyet that the lenient penalties for carrying unlicensed firearms are one of the reasons for the high numbers of unlicensed guns. She said that even though possessing an unlicensed firearm without any other criminal activity carries a three-year prison sentence, it is often deferred or converted to a fine.
According to data from the Umut Foundation, the number of violent incidents involving firearms is escalating every year, with at least 18,769 people losing their lives in such incidents in the last five years.
While 3,801 incidents of gun violence were recorded in 2021, the figure rose to 3,984 in 2022. The fatalities caused by individual firearms also increased from 2,145 in 2021 to 2,278 last year, the foundation’s data show.
Statistics from the Umut Foundation’s “Turkey Gun Violence Map 2022” also reveal that at least 2,278 people were killed and 4,231 others were injured in incidents involving gun violence last year.
The Umut Foundation, a prominent civil society organization dedicated to reducing gun ownership in Turkey, prepares its reports based on information gathered from local media.