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Old April 19, 2002, 10:08 AM   #2
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Join Date: January 17, 2002
Location: Phuket & Bangkok, Thailand
Posts: 156
Hi Walrus,

I don't know Saudi Arabia's exact gun laws so didn't post anything before but since you don't have any responses I can give you some idea about the UAE (next door to Saudi) since I live there for five years in the 90s.

BTW Everything in this post is from personal observation and anecdotal evidence and nothing official so sorry but it's not going to be too "exact".

UAE locals told me that as long as you kept the weapons in the family compound you could own "any gun". Quite a few locals I met owned AK-47s, M-16s, submachine guns, hunting rifles etc.

No one ever talked about any "licensing process".

The thing I never saw in the UAE was anyone carrying guns on their person or in their cars except on hunting trips. There might be no handguns being carried because it is against the law or UAE locals just don't have interest in handguns or maybe since there is minimal street crime no feels the need to carry handguns.

Anyway as a "rule" all guns stay in the family compound. I did go out several times on falcon hunts where the locals would get tired of falcon hunting and take out their guns for some impromptu shooting. But this was way out in the Empty Quarter (think Alaska bush) and far away from villages or any population centre. This is the only time I ever saw guns outside of a family compound except at shooting clubs. Jebal Ally has a shooting club (pistol - one of the few times I saw handguns and shotguns). In Ajman there is a club where you can go and rent automatic military weapons like M-16s and AK-47s for shooting. I don't know much about either club since I only went to the Jebal Ally club once for trap and never to the Ajman club.

I don't have any official numbers or any thing but just personal observation but it always appeared that there were more long guns than handguns. In fact this "lots of long guns vs rare handgun" demographic seems to be true the world over except for Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I think it's maybe true that only in the US are handguns so popular. I am sure this is true in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and SE Asia but I don't know about South America since I only did one trip there years ago.

To the south of Saudi Arabia there is Oman and Yemen. I travelled several times through these countries on desert 4x4 trips. Outside of the population centres in tribal areas the gun culture is completely part of normal society. Most people in (western) Oman and everyone in Yemen has a dagger and an AK-47 everywhere but especially in rural areas. It is in these areas you see guns lying around during prayers etc. After a week in North Yemen you don't even give a second look to a fourteen year old with a AK-47 walking around the souk but again I can count on both hands the number of times I saw handguns but literally hundreds and hundreds of AK-47s. In San'a Yemen there is a gun market where you can buy authentic AK-47s and knock-offs. I was told they are ok (I have no really eye for top quality) but the counterfeits are not of the quality of the knock-off AK-47s made in the gunsmith villages of NW Pakistan.

About Saudi itself I have no information but an educated guess it Saudi is more like the UAE than Yemen or Oman. The Al-Said family have serious control concerns so most likely are pretty tight about the carrying around of weapons but what goes inside the family compounds is culturally and historically very up to the Arab family.

I think if anything the Saudi Arabia gun control is tightening up. In Riyadh's wealthy Olaya neighbourhood you see Saudi youth cruise around in the latest 4x4 while the seven year old boys from the slums of south Riyadh beg at their windows. Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship with growing youth unemployment and wide disparities in wealth so I don't think they are going to start getting more relaxed about gun control but I bet in the family compounds like the UAE everyone has a armoury just no tradition of carrying.

It's really too bad there isn't someone with more reliable information to answer your question.

Cheers Smoker

PS In reference to your Arab women driving comment: In Saudi Arabia especially in the shiite Eastern province outside of the cities you see women driving all the time (mostly trucks). The women don't have an official licence but then who can control the desert nomad. In the UAE out in Liwa Oasis I would see ten to twelve years olds driving Toyota LandCruisers. Who knows how they see over the dash or reach the peddles or what goes down it policewise when they have an accident?
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