Question of the Day: Who Knew Automatic Rifles and Grenades Were Legal in Belgium?

Ex-convict Nordine Amrani went on a shooting and hand grenade spree in a public square in Liege, Belgium Tuesday after first killing someone at his home. Three were murdered at the square during the attack and one died later. “Armed with grenades and an automatic assault rifle, Amrani killed two teenaged boys and a 17-month-old baby on a square crowded with school-children and lunch-hour Christmas shoppers before shooting himself in the head.” Belgian politicians are now lining up to express their horror and – quicker than a Kardashian gets divorced – call for tougher gun laws…

What’s that? It sounded like you said, “I thought Belgium, like all enlightened European countries, already had some of the toughest gun laws in the western world.” Well, you’re right about that. But as an AFP story in reports, that doesn’t seem to matter.

New Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo will detail government proposals before the parliament later Thursday after calls for a tightening of laws on weapons trafficking and an examination of whether to re-examine rules on repeat offenders.

Belgium’s gun laws were drastically tightened after two racially-driven murders in 2006 by a far-right 18-year-old, but new Home Affairs Minister Joelle Milquet this week expressed alarm over an increasing number of weapons available illegally.

Because as we all know, more gun laws always affect criminals first and foremost. But maybe – just maybe – the problem here wasn’t the lack of laws on the books.

The 33-year-old Amrani, who had a passion for arms, was well known to police before he went on the rampage, with a record dating back to children’s courts and charges for drug dealing, petty theft, illegal arms possession, and even a conviction for rape.

It will be hard to make automatic rifles and grenades any more illegal in Belgium. But as was the case involving the murder of a New York City police officer, another option – one that won’t require Belgium’s undoubtedly overworked public servants to pass more unanimously passed legislation – will be to enforce the laws already on the books, and keep known felons in jail.