Private Armed Guards: Firearms law flouted at will
Many private banks and influential individuals are illegally employing armed guards in violation of the firearms law.
Different security service providers supply the armed guards, most of whom are ex-servicemen who have firearm licence.
But according to the law, individuals having arms licence are not allowed to provide security to anybody or any property but their own. If someone violates this provision, their licence is supposed to be revoked immediately.
Not only that, the law also says an individual having an arms licence cannot work as an armed guard.
Organisations must get licences in their own names in case they want to have their property guarded by armed people. Those licences would not allow providing security to any other properties or individuals.
However, the law is being violated widely by many banks and individuals.
A number of top bankers said the Bangladesh Bank has recently asked them to obtain firearm licences for every branch of a bank. Since getting the licences are very cumbersome and time-consuming, the banks went to security firms to hire gunmen.
The security service providing firms find the situation quite tricky.
“We are not authorised to provide armed guards and yet we have to provide service to the clients. Otherwise, we would lose business,” said the managing director of a top security firm.
“So, we hire ex-servicemen who have licences and since such people are few in number they charge us exorbitant salary,” the managing director said. “We cannot charge the banks the same amount and it has become both an illegal business and a losing one too.”
Security firms say the issue may cause big legal problems for all, in case the firearms are used and anybody gets hurt. Questions would arise about the legality of using armed security guards.
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Dhaka Bank, said it was more important to strengthen a bank's own security system than to have a gunman at every branch.
"A gun is not the solution and there is no gunman at any bank in foreign countries. We are installing alarm systems at every key point to ensure round-the- clock security," he said.
Right now only six of the 40 private banks have arms licences and Shahjalal Islami Bank is one of them. But it has licences for only 25 of the bank's 114 branches.
"We have applied to the respective district authorities to issue us gun licences. But it takes a lot of time and persuasion," said a senior official of the bank.
The case of individuals is even worse. The powerful just hire a random person and use them as their armed bodyguard. These guards openly carry their firearms and often in a manner that creates panic, which according to the law, is an illegal act.
However, this practice goes beyond the radar of police.
SM Ruhul Amin, deputy inspector general (media) of Police Headquarters, told The Daily Star that the relevant police units are working to check firearms licences and take actions against the violators.
“But as you are talking about the use of armed individuals by financial institutions, we will give separate instructions to check that,” he said.
Abu Saleh Mohammed Ferdous Khan, deputy commissioner of Dhaka, told The Daily Star that every institute and individual should have separate licences.
“We have not received any information about the use of individuals with firearms licence by financial institutions, but since we have come to know about it, we will definitely gather information,” he added.