Firearms, and another Friday night in Cairo
Egyptians are confronting a violent crime wave with a decidedly American approach: buying guns and taking the law into their own hands.
February 19, 2010 11:26 by Ingrid Wassmann
Two young Egyptian men walked into a firearms store in Zamalek, an upscale neighborhood of Cairo on an early Friday evening. The first man sported beige linen slacks, a pair of pointed leather shoes and a long-collared striped shirt revealing a thick silver chain. His slicked ink black hair complemented his trendy clothes.
He quickly flicked open his cigarette holder and lit up while browsing the guns through the glass on the display shelves. His friend, short and alert, held a wad of folded cash in his right hand.
About 20 minutes later, the men left the shop with a new LE 1,100 ($200) Walther blank-firing gun, 50 rounds of blank ammunition, and a black nylon shoulder holster.
But buying a real firearm that fires real bullets in a gun store in Egypt and obtaining the necessary license to bear the weapon is a much more complicated affair. Even if purchasing one illegally is easier if you know where to look.
Although some gun owners, including the two Zamalek customers, say they use their weapons solely for firing into the air during occasions such as weddings, there is a darker side to the gun trade in Cairo. With a rise in crime in recent years, some Egyptians are arming themselves for protection.
According to statistics provided by Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, the country issued some 17,000 gun licenses last year, 500 of them to women.
“It is not written in the Egyptian Constitution that you have a right to bear arms like in America,” says Ibrahim Ragi, the general manager of a weapons store in Zamalek.
But that does not stop people from buying guns. In his shop that has been in his family for two decades, Ragi sells about a hundred German- and Italian-made blank-firing guns every month.