It was the night of the final. It was the night of victory. It was the night of happiness, celebration and fireworks. And it was the night of death.

Syed Hussain Raza Zaidin of Karachi and Noeen Shah of Nowshera KPK are no more. One was fifteen years of age, the other just six. One lived in the same city as the Pakistan Captain Sarfraz Ahmed. The other lived not far away from Fakhar Zaman, the match winner. Hussain and Noeen could be our Sarfraz and Fakhar, or doctors, engineers and civil servants and deserved to live a happy life.

Hussan and Noeen cheered like the rest of the nation when the last wicket fell and the players kneeled in Sajda. They went out cheering and fell dead. They are dead because we as a nation do not know what to do with our automatic weapons. Because we gather lethal weapons like toys and then fire from these lethal weapons without any aim, without any purpose and without any sense. The firing sent thirty-two people to hospitals that night and two to the graveyard. One wonders why we think it is natural and normal to possess, carry and brandish automatic weapons.

The newly sworn Prime Minister in his maiden speech has vowed to cancel licenses of automatic weapons with a possibility of confiscating them as well. The regulation of arms and the introduction of a licensing regime is a complicated and thorny issue. Two main arguments are given in favour of legal proliferation of arms. One is cultural, especially with reference to tribal areas and border regions and the other is private security, with reference to urban crime and protection against extortion and kidnappings. A deeper look will reveal that both these excuses and justifications are contestable. Our culture is one of hospitality, dignity and brotherhood, not of fear and threats oozing out of the barrels of automatic weapons. Similarly, our cities have become exhibition grounds of modern weaponry. The claim of deterrence is also questionable as there has been hardly an instance in which private security has been able to resist an organised criminal assault. The only purpose seems to be an exhibition of power through firepower.

There is enough firepower in private hands to scare us all. The informal estimates put the number of private weapons in the range of two million. This is more than double that of all our law enforcement combined. The possession of weapons by private persons for security ends up not only creating an environment of fear but also causes irreparable damage due to accidents, provoked violence and crime. Most civilised countries, with the sole exception of United States, have totally banned weapons and have seen marked reduction in violence. Countries like Australia and Japan, both having traditions of warrior-ship and violence, have been able to almost eliminate gun deaths by banning the weapons. We have to reflect and review if such firepower in untrained hands is adding to security or risking it.

Firepower is not enough to cause damage. It needs a sense of power. It needs a sense of immunity; that the holder of firepower can get away with possession, brandishing and use of lethal weapons. The alacrity with which even the harmless citizens get carried away in emotions of anger or happiness makes them and those around really vulnerable. A small brawl is turned into a violent encounter and an innocent celebration becomes a catastrophe. Then there is high probability of accidents. A hunting trip might end in a death round and routine cleaning leaves a bystander dead. There can never be enough safety when it comes to the handling of deadly weapons.

The law is clear. Arms ordinance does not ordinarily allow the carrying and licensing of assault weapons. It creates two categories; prohibited and non-prohibited ones. The automatic and assault weapons come under the prohibited category and in the spirit of law, are not to be allowed. We made a way around the law and allowed licensing of prohibited weapons at different intervals without recalling the earlier ones. Every phase in which prohibited weapons are allowed is accompanied by floodgates of illegal weapons too. These illegal weapons push for more expansion of legal weapons and society gets caught in a cycle of violence. Another issue is supply of weapons. Most of weapons are foreign made yet find their way in country without any trade channel and even registered as well.

The time for saying farewell to arms has come. A peaceful society is an arms free society. The presence of arms in private hands has been long found to be directly proportional to instances of violence. The choice is not one for the government, but for the public too.

The writer is a member of Police Service of Pakistan and was Senior Superintendent of Police in Peshawar.

They are dead because we as a nation do not know what to do with our automatic weapons.