Topkapı raid sparks row on gun sales to foreigners

Topkapı raid sparks row on gun sales to foreigners

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Topkapı raid sparks row on gun sales to foreigners


Debate over regulations regarding the sale of firearms to foreigners has sparked from a recent shootout between security forces and an assailant of Libyan origin in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district.

According to current regulations, it is sufficient for foreigners to merely present their passports in order to purchase a firearm, although the weapon ought to be handed over to the customer unassembled. On the grounds of these weak restrictions, Samir Salem Ali Elmadhavri, 36, who was shot dead Nov. 30 inside the walls of the Topkapı Palace Museum after wounding two people, assembled his gun at a coffeehouse prior to the attack.

Foreigners have been allowed to purchase firearms in Turkey since 1994, according to Veysi İleri, the head of the Arms Industrialists and Explosive Materials Businesspeople Association, who argued that arms sales both to foreigners and to Turkish citizens have to do with democratization.

“All the developed countries in the world have the same regulations in place as Turkey. The [Sultanahmet shootout] was the first time such an incident took place. It must not be generalized,” İleri told the Hürriyet Daily News in a telephone interview.

Right to bear arms

“A country that does not sell arms cannot really be regarded as a developed country and neither would it be able to find a place for itself in the world. There is a misperception that Turkish people leap onto their guns right away. I disagree with this. The statistics presented do not reflect reality,” İleri said.

Turkey ties with the United States as No. 14 in a list of countries with the highest rate of crimes committed with firearms, according to psychiatrist Arhan Akçan, who is also the spokesperson for the Umut (Hope) Foundation, which focuses on the issue of individual disarmament.

“The sales of guns both to Turkish citizens and to foreigners have to be brought under control. The demand for arms has been constantly increasing in recent years. Moreover, there is also the problem of terrorism Turkey still needs to overcome,” Akçan told the Daily News.

“A passport photocopy suffices for foreigners [to buy guns]. A couple of documents are also issued. They are thinking about the influx of foreign currency, but caution is paramount,” Akçan said.

In relation to eyewitness accounts from those who thought the assailant was acting in a movie when they saw him wearing a bandolier and a hunting rifle, Akçan said this was an explicit indicator of the low levels of attention people had in perception and discernment.

“Security officials assigned to places bearing a strategic significance like the Topkapı Palace with respect to tourism have to be subjected to psychological tests. Their personality types and the behavior they would adopt during such incidents all have to be analyzed. [Such security personnel] ought to be sent on duty only after [such scrutiny],” he said.