I served in the US Army during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. After the invasion, my Military Police unit spent over a year rebuilding, restructuring, and manning five Iraqi Police stations in the heart of Baghdad. We spent thousands of hours on combat patrols in the city, hunting for Insurgents and also dealing with all of the regular civilian on civilian crime that happens in a city of 6 million people. Baghdad was a city, not unlike one in America. They had prostitution, adult cinemas, liquor stores, gambling, the women dressed in western style clothing without fear of assault, and it was legal for citizens to own firearms both before the War and after. That all changed shortly after the invasion . . .
The US Government agency that was responsible for the rebuilding and management of Iraq after the invasion was called the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), headed by L. Paul Bremer. In early June 2003, someone at the CPA decided that Iraqis shouldn’t have the means to defend themselves, and thus started a total ban on civilian firearm ownership.
I was in charge of an Iraqi Police station during this time. We were dealing with mostly Iraqi on Iraqi civilian crime. When the order came down from the CPA that no Iraqi could own firearms and that they had to turn them in, we saw a severe uptick in violent crime i.e. robbery, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, home invasion, homicide, etc. Over the month of June and into August, it seemed as if there were a flooded river of violent crime victims, both living and dead, running through the Iraqi Police station.
This was not due to insurgent activity, this was civilian crime. The rape gangs were stealing young girls and boys off the street and at schools at an alarming rate and selling them to the Saudis. Gangs of men would go into stores, kill the merchants, and steal their goods and money. Carjacking increased 20-fold, much of the time killing those that were being carjacked and leaving their bodies on the streets. The wolves were loose in Baghdad, and they were killing everyone. They were emboldened because their prey could not defend themselves. The strong and the many were preying on the weak and the outnumbered.
I saw no other reason for this drastic increase in violent crime, other than the total firearm ban that the US Government instituted that June. The bloodbath continued throughout the summer and into early September. It was getting very bad and the Iraqis were in an uproar over not being able to defend themselves.
Someone in the Coalition Provisional Authority must have looked at the violent crime statistics, because as quickly as they instituted the firearm ban in June, they rescinded the order in September. Iraqis could now own one firearm, be it a pistol or automatic rifle, three magazines, and 150 rounds of ammunition. Anything more than that was considered a weapons cache and the owners would be subject to arrest.
After the ban on firearms was lifted, violent crime decreased dramatically. More and more homeowners were defending their houses against violent criminals. They would either bring in the people they captured attempting to burglarize their home, or they would call us to come pick up the criminals bodies. Would-be carjackers were being shot by people defending themselves. Rape gangs weren’t stealing young kids out of the schools because the schools were armed with AK-47s. The flooded river of violent crime victims slowed down to a small stream by October of 2003.
Gun control in Iraq was a failed policy, which resulted in much pain and sorrow for the thousands of violent crime victims throughout the Country.
I was on a combat patrol one night in September 2003 in the Al Karradah district in Baghdad. This was a day or two after the firearms ban had been lifted. The word hadn’t gotten out yet to all the Iraqis that they could own firearms again.
An Iraqi woman about 75 years old stumbled out into the street in front of our patrol, battered and bleeding. She had been the victim of a home invasion by three young men. They broke into her home and beat her until she told them were she kept her valuables. After they ransacked the house, they jumped over the back wall and fled into the night.
After we checked the area and took her report, she told us that she wished she could have had a firearm to protect herself from the burglars. I told her that the firearm ban was lifted a few days before and that it was now legal for her to own them again. I will never forget the next words she spoke to me.
“Tomorrow morning, I will go to the arms market and buy a Kalashnikov. If the robbers return, I will fill the graveyard with their bodies”</b>. I told her, “Good,” and went back on patrol.
She understood. She knew that she was a target because she was weak and outnumbered, but she wasn’t going to be a victim again.
Some reading this might say, “This doesn’t apply to the US because it happened in a War Zone.” I say BS to that. This happened in a major metropolitan city that suffered from the exact types of crime we see here in our cities.
There are bad people that wish to do harm to others in every culture and country in the world. The strong and the many will always try to prey on the weak and defenseless. Gun control doesn’t work; I’ve seen it play out in front of my eyes to horrific consequences in Baghdad. We need to remain vigilant and politically active so that it never plays out in front of our eyes here in the United States.