After Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003, Iraq was left in shambles. The black market was flooded with stolen firearms from police stations and military bases. Average citizens were buying firearms on the black market as a means of protecting themselves and their families against insurgent groups.
Fast forward 15 years and things are vastly different in the Middle Eastern country, Reuters reported. The Iraqi government has implemented policies that allows citizens to own and carry handguns, semi-automatic rifles and various other weapons. In order to legally possess these firearms a citizen is required to receive "authorization" from the government. He or she then obtains an identity card which details what firearms the person possesses. Up until now, firearms were only allowed for hunting and sporting purposes.
Now that this policy change is being implemented, Iraqis are able to obtain a firearm legally for self-defense. And people are flocking to gun stores.
Hamza Maher, who opened a gun store in Karrada, told Reuters he has seen a growing demand for firearms.
“Customers are mainly men, but the number of women buyers is growing," Maher said. “The reason for buying is self-defense, and it’s safer for citizens to buy a weapon from an authorized store instead of from an unknown source.”
Handgun prices in Maher's shop range from $1,000 to $4,000 while rifles sit between $400 and $2,000, depending on the brand and where the manufacturer is located.
Haider al-Suhail, a tribal sheikh (religious leader) from Baghdad, said having legal gun stores is a good thing.
"Yes, it will decrease crime,” al-Suhail said as he purchased rifles for his ranch guards. “The criminal who plans to attack others will understand that he will pay heavy price.”