Gun-toting Libyans celebrate during their 2011 revolution
Last week, news outlets reported that Libya’s interim government had administered a deadline requiring armed, out-of-town militias to relinquish their weapons and leave Tripoli by December 20.
These reports followed a statement by Abdul-Rafik Bu Hajjar, leader of the Tripoli municipal council, who claimed to have the full support of the new Prime Minister, Abdel-Rahim Keeb.
In August, rebel groups descended upon Tripoli where they successfully ousted longtime Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, the rebels have overtaken government buildings and abandoned houses in the capital city, and they seem to have no intention of leaving. There has been speculation that the outside militias have remained in Tripoli to yield political power.
Feuds between rival rebel groups have escalated, resulting in a great deal of violence. Consequently, residents of Tripoli have begun to stage protests, demanding that these outside, disruptive militias leave. Protestors have asserted that the proliferation of weapons has threatened their safety.
On Sunday, armed violence erupted between the rebels and the Libyan national army, leaving one person dead.
Bu Hajjar has voiced his support for the civilian protests, in hope that they will drive the rebels back to their hometowns. He has threatened citywide roadblocks if militias do not abide by the December 20 deadline.
Despite Bu Hajjar’s claims, Prime Minister Keeb has denied his support for the disarmament deadline. Instead, Keeb says he is trying to negotiate with the rebels.
Is disarmament of the rebels the best course of action for the interim government to take? Will attempts to confiscate firearms end the violence, or will they simply breed more hostility?
Historically, governments that have advocated strict gun control have been characterized by totalitarian rule. Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Mao Tze Tung, Pol Pot, and Fidel Castro are all examples of dictators who promoted gun control.
It is yet to be seen whether or not the December 20 deadline will be strictly enforced, but the date marks approximately fourth months since the end of rule under Gaddafi. A stable government has not been established in Libya thus far.