Uproar over Dutch plan to ask race, religion of gun owners

Lawmakers and gun owner associations say that the proposal by Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus risks breaching privacy rights and could be a form of “ethnic profiling.” (AFP)
Updated 27 September 2018

Uproar over Dutch plan to ask race, religion of gun owners

  • The proposals are part of the Dutch response to new EU guidelines to beef up gun laws after a series of terror attacks including those in Paris on November 13, 2015.
  • The Royal Dutch Sports Rifling Association (KNSA) took aim at the plans, saying it “could have a discriminatory affect” and stigmatize people.

THE HAGUE: The Dutch government has come under fire for plans to register the race and religion of gun owners following a string of European terror attacks, a news report said Thursday.
Lawmakers and gun owner associations say that the proposal by Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus risks breaching privacy rights and could be a form of “ethnic profiling.”
The proposals are part of the Dutch response to new EU guidelines to beef up gun laws after a series of terror attacks including those in Paris on November 13, 2015 in which 130 people died.
“There are diverse risks factors for gun ownership,” Grapperhaus said in a memorandum explaining the changes in a concept bill published in late June, the center-left De Volkskrant daily said.
Therefore police “required personal data including race or ethnical origin, political views and religious and philosophical convictions,” said the Christian Democrat minister, whose party forms part of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s four-party coalition.
But these inclusions “are unnecessary, even according to the minimum European guidelines,” said Monica den Boer, a lawmaker in the progressive D66 party, which is also part of the ruling coalition.
“We don’t discriminate and ethnic profile. These proposals must be dropped from the draft bill,” she told the paper.
Even some within Grapperhaus’ own party opposed the plans.
“I cannot forsee any situation justifying the inclusion of these suggestions,” said CDA lawmaker Chris van Dam.
The Royal Dutch Sports Rifling Association (KNSA) also took aim at the plans, saying it “could have a discriminatory affect” and stigmatize people.
“Almost no shooting incidents (in The Netherlands) are committed with legal weapons” apart from a major shooting in 2011, said KNSA director Sander Duisterhof.
He was referring to one of the country’s worst shootings since World War II when 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis shot six people and wounded 16 others at a shopping mall in April that year.
Van der Vlis, who had a gun permit, unleashed a hail of automatic gunfire on lunchtime shoppers before turning the gun on himself. He had suffered from psychological problems before the shooting.
“To think that terrorists will get nervous because of these proposed new rules is wishful thinking by politicians,” Duisterhof said.
The new law will be before parliament within the next few weeks, De Volkskrant said.


Britain set for long lockdown as death toll rises to 4,313

Updated 04 April 2020

Britain set for long lockdown as death toll rises to 4,313

  • The government has put Britain into a widespread shutdown, closing pubs, restaurants and nearly all shops, while ordering people to stay home
  • The peak of new cases could come within a week or 10 days, scientists said

LONDON: Britain is unlikely to lift its stringent lockdown rules until the end of May, once the spread of the coronavirus has started to slow, a leading government adviser said on Saturday as the death toll rose to 4,313.
The government has put Britain into a widespread shutdown, closing pubs, restaurants and nearly all shops, while ordering people to stay home unless absolutely essential to venture out.
The order is designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which has almost 42,000 confirmed cases. But some experts have started to question whether the shuttering of the economy will cost more lives in the long run.
“We want to move to a situation where at least by the end of May we’re able to substitute some less intensive measures, more based on technology and testing, for the complete lockdown we have now,” Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio.
Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 20% to 4,313 by Friday afternoon with 708 new fatalties recorded, the health ministry said. That compared to a 23% rise on Thursday.
The peak of new cases could come within a week or 10 days, Ferguson said, but adherence to the strict rules will determine how quickly the rate of infections decline after that.
“It is quite finely balanced at the current time,” he said, adding that Britain could have quite high levels of infection for “weeks and weeks” if people start to socialize.
Britain initially took a restrained approach to the outbreak but Prime Minister Boris Johnson changed tack and imposed stringent social-distancing measures after Ferguson’s modelling showed a quarter of a million people in the country could die.
The response has since been hampered by a lack of ventilators and an inability to carry out mass testing to determine whether the public, and particularly health workers, have built up an immunity.
Johnson, who has been in self-isolation after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, has invited opposition party leaders to a briefing next week with medical advisers, including the new leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer.
“As party leaders we have a duty to work together at this moment of national emergency,” he said.
Painted to a corner’
Some are questioning the long-term strategy.
A second senior government adviser, the chief pandemic modeller Graham Medley, said he feared Britain had painted itself into a corner, with no clear exit from a strategy that would damage the economic and mental well-being of many people.
Almost one million people have applied for welfare benefits in just two weeks in Britain, according to official data that shows the economy is set for a depression that could be worse than the slump in the 1930s.
“If we carry on with lockdown it buys us more time, we can get more thought put into it, but it doesn’t resolve anything — it’s a placeholder,” Medley told the Times newspaper.
“We’ve kind of painted ourselves into a corner, because then the question will be, what do we do now? In broad terms are we going to continue to harm children to protect vulnerable people, or not?“
Health Minister Matt Hancock has set a goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month, a tenfold increase that industry leaders have questioned due to shortages of equipment. It is also considering immunity certificates.
Separately the government said it would free prisoners who were deemed to be low risk and were within weeks of release.