Stop firing guns at weddings, Qatar’s MOI warns

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Rimoh Jacob/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Gunfire at celebrations in Qatar is prohibited under the law and could turn “happiness into sorrow,” the Ministry of Interior has reminded residents this week.

In a series of half a dozen tweets this week, the MOI warned against using firearms during special occasions, especially weddings, saying the practice is “extremely dangerous and could lead to human and material loss.”

The MOI added:

Translation: Any kind of firearm is a symbol of blood, while weddings call for happiness and joy; be sure not to carry (firearms), so our happiness does not turn into sorrow.

The law

Carrying and using firearms during celebrations in Qatar is illegal, according to Law No. 14 of 1999.

Translation: Some people continue to carry firearms and shoot gunshots on special occasions and weddings, which is a violation that puts them under legal liability.

Article 12 states:

“No weapons licensed for possession or acquisition shall be carried at official celebrations, public and private events, conferences and processions, nor shall weapons be carried in markets and public places except under license by the Licensing Authority and in accordance with the specified conditions.”

Penalties for firing guns or setting off fireworks in residential areas or on public roads without a license can range from QR1,000 to QR3,000.

Speaking to Doha News, former Qatar justice minister and practicing criminal attorney Dr. Najeeb Al Nuaimi said that firing guns in isolated areas far from neighborhoods is legal as long as the firearm is licensed.

However, he added that it’s dangerous to use firearms in public areas where people have gathered.

Cultural practice

Firing guns in the air to express joy during celebrations, especially at weddings, is a common practice in many Arab countries.

Al Nuaimi said that before the law in Qatar was issued, men always used to fire guns during weddings to greet the groom and guests, as was the culture in many other GCC countries.

Wedding in the UAE for illustrative purposes only.

Tribes of the World/Flickr

Wedding in the UAE for illustrative purposes only.

However, many nations have outlawed the practice because it is so dangerous.

In 2012 for example, gunfire at a wedding party in eastern Saudi Arabia led to the collapse of an electric cable, killing 23 people, according to NBC.

Years earlier in 2007, three people were killed in Baghdad from celebratory gunfire when fans of the Iraqi football team celebrated their win against Vietnam during the Asian cup, according to the BBC.

Studies cited by the channel state that although the velocity of a falling bullet is less than one that has just been shot, it is still enough to be fatal.

Ballistics expert David Dyson explained:

“These bullets go a long way up when they’re fired… but you don’t know where they’re going to land – there’s always a chance of them causing serious harm or death.”

Theorizing on the reason for the gunfire practice, Prof. Peter Squires, an expert in gun crime and gun culture at the University of Brighton, told the BBC that “the practice stems from cultural assumptions linking weapons with masculinity and ego.”

Regardless of safety concerns, Al Nuami said many continue in Qatar continue to flout the law and fire guns.

Laws and penalties

To own a firearm in Qatar, one must obtain a license from the MOI. According to regulations cited in article nine of the Law No. 14 of 1999, applicants must:

  • Photo for illustrative purposes only.

    Keary O/Flickr

    Photo for illustrative purposes only.

    Be more than 21 years old;

  • Not have a criminal record, including committing or attempting to commit crimes related to attacking people, theft, or crimes that violate honor or integrity;
  • Not been previously arrested in a crime against the state or related to the military forces;
  • Not been previously arrested in crimes related to drugs or narcotics;
  • Have a proven good character and conduct; and
  • Not proven to have any mental or psychological illness or disability the prevents him from using a gun properly.

It does not specify whether an applicant must be Qatari, but Nuami said licenses are rarely given to expats unless they work in the special forces or are in the military. He added that it’s also not easy for a local to obtain a license for a gun even if he or she meets the above specifications.

Penalties for possessing unlicensed firearms in Qatar ranges from fines of QR1,000 to QR50,000 and/or a prison sentence ranging from one year to seven years in prison, depending on the kind of firearm.

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