BEIRUT: Celebratory shootings in the air, or what Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, Lebanon’s general security chief, called the “stealthy killer,” is a phenomenon some Lebanese still hold on to to express their joys and sorrows. This phenomenon was the theme of the workshop organized on Thursday in Beirut.
The workshop focused on “applying behavioral sciences to put an end to indiscriminate shootings on occasions.”
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said: “People have a human and moral right to express their feelings in a joyful celebration or a sad occasion. However, they cannot do so by shooting — a crime that shall be subject to the most severe punishment and social condemnation.”
Dr. Rana Shami talked about “her suffering at the American University of Beirut Medical Center AUH, as she tried to heal injured people with stray bullets, that ended the lives of many.” Dr. Shami launched the project “Stray Bullet Initiative,” as part of a campaign to combat this phenomenon.
Gen. Ibrahim said: “We can no longer tolerate silence on the random shooting phenomenon. Decisive action must be taken at state level and its security and judicial entities, and even the local authorities, in parallel with civil society.”
According to official figures, the number of victims of the uncontrolled weapons in 2017 was 500, 170 of whom died. This number fell in 2018 to 300, including 120 deaths.
Maj. Gen. Ibrahim noted that “the dangers of random shootings are present all across the Lebanese regions, without exception.”
“This phenomenon reflects the fragility of the Lebanese state and its institutions and causes a serious rift in the society. It is a disgrace to have ignorant individuals among us who still use weapons to express their joys or sorrows,” he added.
He demanded “the consolidation of the penal code, as has happened in many countries, especially Japan, where such negative factors have dramatically dropped.” He suggested “shedding light on this issue in schools through the adoption of awareness-raising curriculums and programs.”
The Lebanese brag about owning arms at their homes, while only 30,000 permits have been issued by the relevant authorities at the Defense Ministry.
One of the articles of the 1959 Law on the permits of arms’ possession stipulates that “citizens have the right to obtain a firearm permit for ‘self-defense purposes’.” The Lebanese civil war in 1975 increased the Lebanese sense of the need for self-protection.
Head of the General Security Center in Chouf Maj. Dounia Abu Saeed said: “Arms in Lebanon have become a means to celebrate a childbirth, the victory of an election candidate or the success of a student, or even to express grief over the loss of a young man killed in a traffic accident.”
She said the workshop aims to “come up with non-traditional solutions to combat one of our society’s most dangerous behaviors, for random shooting is a security matter with behavioral roots that does not require security-related methods and ideas, but the design of simple effective and inexpensive choices developed by experts in behavioral science from the Business School departments at Warwick University in the UK. They replace bullets with roses. We must understand the psychological aspect of shooters.”
Until 2016, the Lebanese Penal Code did not provide a clear classification of the crime of “random shooting”, where the Constitution stipulates that ‘No offense may be established or penalty imposed except by the text of Law’. However, since Nov. 3, 2016, random shooting in Lebanon has been a crime, punishable by Law according to the gravity of the result. It can reach a minimum of 10 years of hard labor, with a fine of 20 to 25 times the minimum wage, in the case of a random shooting leading to casualties.