Owners would have 180 days to register weapons without charge once bill passes
The cabinet has approved an amnesty for gun owners who have not yet registered their firearms following the mass shooting that left 36 people dead in Nong Bua Lam Phu.
Ministers on Tuesday cleared a proposal that would allow owners of unregistered firearms to have their weapons officially recorded within 180 days without charges, government spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said.
The bill also allows owners to hand over unlawful ammunition to authorities within the same period without penalty, she said.
The proposed legislation, once approved, will improve the government’s capacity to tighten controls on gun ownership and better monitor the movement of firearms going into the country, she added.
Further details were not available, and it is not clear when the legislation will be introduced, given that the House is to be dissolved within days in preparation for an election in May. Tuesday’s cabinet meeting lasted for six hours and ministers approved a host of plans and projects that might not surface again for months.
The high number of firearms, registered and unregistered, and the ease with which they can be obtained despite tough rules — on paper at least — have been widely debated since the nursery massacre in the northeastern province of Nong Bua Lam Phu last October.
In that incident, a former police officer armed with an automatic weapon and a knife went on a rampage in the community of Uthai Sawan, leaving 36 people, including 24 children, dead and 10 injured. The killer later took his own life.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared shortly after the incident that those who apply for gun licences must meet criteria and pass a mental health test to ensure they are not disturbed. They must also be certified by community leaders or supervisors of state agencies they work for, he said.
Tough measures would also be taken to crack down on the online sale of illegal firearms and various laws and ministerial regulations would need to be reviewed to keep up with the current situation, he added.
Thailand had 7.2 million guns in private hands — an estimated 1.2 million of them unregistered — as of 2021, according to GunPolicy.org, a project of the University of Sydney. That is more than one gun for every 10 people, the highest rate in Southeast Asia.