Malaysia's gun laws: Tough to get permit, but is it working?

Despite stringent regulations, the trend in firearm-related crimes remained inconsistent, raising questions about the effectiveness of the system.

18 Apr 2024 08:30am
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo courtesy of PDRM
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo courtesy of PDRM

SHAH ALAM - Malaysia presents an intriguing case when it comes to firearms licensing.

Although the process appeared straightforward with online applications, background checks and having valid reasons to possess a firearm, securing approval could become a bureaucratic maze lasting months or even years.

However, despite these stringent regulations, the trend in firearm-related crimes remained inconsistent, raising questions about the effectiveness of the system.

Management and Science University (MSU) criminologist and forensic science lecturer Nadiah Syariani Md Shariff said in Malaysia, obtaining a firearm licence involved a straightforward application process, yet approval from the authorities was difficult, indicating stringent regulations.

“Prospective gun owners must submit an online form to the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP), providing essential details and specifying the purpose for firearm ownership, whether for personal use, competition or hunting.

“Applicants must also meet specific criteria, including being over 18 years old, having no criminal record and being mentally and physically sound.

“Despite meeting these criteria and having valid reasons, approval can take months or even years, with some facing multiple rejections and having to reapply,” she said.

Nadiah said the renewal of licence was mandatory annually and older applicants may need to provide medical reports to demonstrate that they were fit to own a firearm.

Related Articles:

“The purchase of ammunition requires police permission, necessitating a new application each time and presentation of legal authorisation to the seller.

“Spent shell casings must be returned to the police, emphasising strict monitoring of ammunition use,” she added.

She said the trend in firearm-related crimes has shown inconsistency over the years, with fluctuations in the number of cases observed.

Despite strict regulations on gun possession in the country, she said there have been certain times when notable increases in such crimes have been observed, suggesting potential challenges in controlling access to firearms.

“Cases of shootings in public in Malaysia commonly arise from gang-related conflicts, often involving illegally obtained firearms and typically stemming from disputes within criminal organisations.

“Incidents involving police engagement with suspects have been observed, alongside property crimes like gang robberies or armed robberies,” she said.

She said the motives behind crimes involving firearms varied based on the type of offence, whether interpersonal or related to property.

“While firearms are seldom used in personal crimes such as murder or attempted murder, sharp objects, often household items are more commonly used.

“Nonetheless, the utilisation of firearms in any criminal activity highlights a significant intent to cause harm or fatality, known as mens rea, amplifying the severity of the offence.

“While self-defence may justify the use of firearms in some instances, regulations and mitigating factors dictate their appropriate use in such circumstances,” she said.

She said while Malaysia have stringent regulations and laws, their effectiveness in ensuring lawful gun ownership was compromised by factors like illegal gun trafficking and the accessibility of firearms in neighbouring countries.

She said despite the rigorous procedures and regulations governing licences and firearm ownership, there remained a risk of these licences being exploited for illicit purposes.

Delving further into the topic, Nadiah suggested fixing this issue by focusing on bolstering law enforcement efforts, which entailed increased monitoring and crackdowns on illicit transactions.

“This initiative would necessitate substantial investment in resources and manpower to enhance security, particularly at border checkpoints lacking proper authorities.

“Given the cross-border nature of the problem, close collaboration and coordinated efforts between neighbouring countries are imperative.

“Implementing more rigorous random checks for licence holders would be essential to ensure adherence to regulations,” she added.

Meanwhile, according to a report by online news portal The Vibes, despite Malaysia's strict gun laws, firearms continued to be smuggled across the border.

Quoting a police source, the report stated that the traffickers remained active, exploiting various methods to bypass border checks.

“Glock and.38 revolver are among the most sought-after guns due to their size, making them easy to smuggle in parts and assemble later,” said a source, who is a senior police officer.

Smuggling routes included rat trails or back lanes, with corruption not ruled out as a factor. There have been reports of gangs using lorries carrying pigs to smuggle weapons.

In 2023, the Kelantan police highlighted gun smuggling as a serious issue, particularly linked to drug pushers bringing firearms from Thailand, with 18 smuggled firearms seized in 2022.

Recent shooting cases in Malaysia

April 14, 2024

Just as Malaysians were celebrating Aidilfitri, news of a shooting incident at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Terminal 1 emerged, sparking concerns about the effectiveness of the firearms control system.

The 38-year-old suspect, Hafizul Harawi fired two gunshots at his wife at the arrival hall. However, the shots fired by the suspect missed the intended target, identified as Farah Md Isa and instead hit one of the two bodyguards who were guarding the woman.

One of the two bullets fired struck the personal bodyguard in the abdomen, while the other missed the woman.

The bodyguard was in critical condition and placed in induced coma at the Cyberjaya Hospital.

The suspect was then arrested in front of a private hospital in Kota Bharu, Kelantan the next day by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). He was now being remanded for seven days to assist in the investigation.

April 7, 2024

Two Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) personnel were injured after being shot while carrying out a patrol under the Op Khas Pagar Laut in Kunak waters.

A the time of the incident, the MMEA personnel saw a boat being navigated suspiciously in the waters. However, upon approaching the boat, three suspects who were onboard, opened fire at them.

Petty Officer Zainal Abad Komel, 45, who was shot in the eye in the shootout has lost sight in his left eye while Leading Rate Prayrie De Cuella Jimin, 35, who was injured in both hands was in stable condition.

The suspects, known for their involvement in cross-border criminal activities remained at large despite intensive efforts by authorities, including collaboration between the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) and the police.

March 30, 2024

In Putra Heights, five armed robbers were shot dead following a shoot-out with police.

It was reported that the suspects were spotted by police in a car and when the police ordered them to stop the vehicle, they opened fire at police.

The five suspects died following the confrontation with police.

Checks on the suspects’ vehicle led to the recovery of firearms and burglary tools which hinted at the group's intentions to carry out further criminal activities, targeting factories, courier company offices, and residences.

March 27, 2024

Police arrested an Israeli man over possession of six guns at a hotel on Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

The 37-year-old named Avitan Shalom was believed to have entered the country from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) using a French passport on March 12.

He was charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on April 12 with two firearms-related offences, in which he pleaded not guilty to.

No bail was offered to the accused and his case will be up for mention on May 21.

March 11, 2024

Three foreigners, suspected of being members of 'Centro Gang' which is believed responsible for several cases of breaking into jewellery shops, involving losses of more than RM4 million, were killed during a shoot-out with the police at KM 17 Jalan Pekan - Kuantan Bypass.

The incident ended with two Vietnamese men and a Bangladeshi, aged 36, 44 and 38 respectively, found dead in a Proton Waja car.

It was reported that the car was earlier spotted in a suspicious manner in the area of the Pahang State Development Board in Pekan by a police team from the Criminal Investigation Department of the Selangor and Pahang police.

The police had ordered the car to stop, but the driver sped off towards Jalan Pekan-Kuantan bypass before a high-speed chase ensued.

According to the police, the suspects rammed their car into the rear of the police patrol car and their car came to a halt, and when policemen stepped out to inspect the vehicle, the suspect fired several shots at the police.

In self-defence, the police returned fire, killing the three men in the car and a search in the car also found a Glock 17 pistol along with seven bullets and three bullet casings.

March 6, 2024

In Klang, a 46-year-old security manager narrowly escaped death in an attempted hit, highlighting the pervasive nature of violence in urban areas.

The victim was shot at close range by an unknown assailant. The security manager sustained multiple injuries but survived the ordeal.

Investigations into the motive behind the shooting were ongoing, with authorities emphasising the gravity of the offence under Section 307 of the Penal Code.

Jan 1, 2024

Three men were injured after they were reportedly shot by two unknown men at a coffee shop in Jalan Wong King Huo, Sibu, Sarawak.

The incident happened when the victims were drinking with their friends at the coffee shop.

It is learnt that the two suspects arrived on a motorcycle and fired at the group of men before fleeing the scene.

It was reported that the three men, who were shot, were then taken to a private medical centre for treatment.