SPECIAL FEATURE ON GUN LAWS

In Singapore: Stiff penalties for unlawful possession

The recent series of public shootings in Malaysia has raised questions about access to firearms. ST's regional bureaus take a closer look at gun laws in the region, and the laws in place to restrict them.

 

GUN control laws in Singapore are among the strictest in the world.

The two main statutes governing firearms are the Arms Offences Act and the Arms and Explosives Act.

They spell out tough penalties for both illegal possession and unlawful use of guns.

For instance, anyone caught unlawfully possessing a gun or ammunition can be jailed for between five and 10 years, and given at least six strokes of the cane, according to the Arms Offences Act.

Anyone caught using an illegal firearm faces the death penalty. Arms traffickers also face the death penalty, or they can be jailed for life and given at least six strokes of the cane.

A licence is required for legal gun ownership in Singapore, for which the applicant must fulfil a series of strict requirements.

Some of these requirements include a genuine reason for possessing a gun, and the ability to prove that there is a "serious threat to his life and no other way of overcoming/removing the threat".

Applicants must pass stringent background checks that would look into their criminal, medical and mental health records. They are also required to pass a shooting proficiency test.

As a result of the tough laws and regulations, private gun ownership in Singapore is among the lowest in the world.

According to a 2007 study by Small Arms Survey, an independent research outfit in Geneva, the rate of private gun ownership in Singapore is about one gun per 200 people.

This is compared with 88.8 privately held guns per 100 people in the United States, which topped the list of 178 countries that were surveyed.