The overnight standoff that turned into a hostage situation and left 20 dead has many wondering what Bangladesh's gun laws are. But really, it doesn't seem that access to guns could have prevented the deaths of the victims. Witness reports from those who were able to escape the cafe early in the attack say that an estimated 7 gunmen entered the Holey Artisan Bakery with guns, firing blanks to threaten the patrons. But when Bangladeshi commandos finally raided the restaurant on Saturday morning, they found explosives and "sharp weapons." All of the victims were reportedly killed by stabbings, not gun injuries. The Bangladesh Army Brig Gen Naim Asraf Chowdhury said the victims were "brutally" attacked.
This isn't the first time that terror was carried out by "sharp weapons" or knives. In April, 28-year-old atheist law student was "hacked to death," according to NPR (what a way with words), on the street by knife-wielding terrorists. Multiple attackers on motorcycles killed the student, who was allegedly an activist that spoke often against radical Islam. Two other men were stabbed to death by five men declaring allegiance to Allah in their home in April as well. In 2015, four secular bloggers were also stabbed to death for their work. ISIS has taken responsibility for those murders, alone with Friday's attack in Dhaka, but their role in the attacks hasn't been authenticated by any security departments.
Although the recent string of attacks by radical Islamists have been mostly perpetrated with knives, the Bangladeshi government actually includes knives, swords, daggers, spear, bows and arrows as arms, and to buy one, citizens have to go through the same procedures as they would a gun. In Bangladesh, the right to own a firearm or weapon is not guaranteed as a right for every citizen, as it is in the United States.
This is outlined in the Arms Act 1878, which was created to unarm the country while under British rule. Under the act, citizens must be 25-years-old to apply to purchase a shotgun and 30-years- old for handguns and rifles. Citizens can only have one type of weapon. So if one buys a shotgun, they can't have a rifle, too.
To get a gun license in Bangladesh, people have to have:
- Police verification report
- Gun license application
- Payment of required fees
- Submission of necessary documents like, annual income, income tax return, notarized declaration with regard to present arms status of the applicant.
It is not easy to carry a firearm in Bangladesh. The government also maintains records of all people who have applied for and own a firearm.
On Twitter, many Americans are already politicizing the lack of gun violence in Friday's attack in the cafe. But those gun advocates are missing the point. The violence that plagues Bangladesh is nowhere near similar to that in the United States. The murders in the past year there have been targeted, very specifically, at secular activists. The violence has nothing to do with access to guns and more to do with simple, brutal terrorism.
Politicizing Dhaka to talk about American gun reform is naive and doesn't help Bangladesh in the wake of their ongoing tragedies. The terrorists did have guns, used to control the hostage situation. But it's probably better to not compare apples and oranges. Terrorism and gun reform are two different issues. People's energy would be better spent getting informed about international terrorism and sending their condolences the victims' families, many foreigners. It's not a time to bicker.