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Thai police target online gun sales after deadly mall shooting

BANGKOK - Thailand will close legal loopholes relating to firearm classification and online sales in its gun control efforts, its police chief said on Wednesday, a day after a teenager was arrested following a deadly shooting at a mall that left two people dead.

The gun used by the alleged 14-year-old shooter was modified and originally designed to fire blank rounds, meaning it wasn't classified as a lethal weapon, and it was likely purchased online, Torsak Sukvimol said in a television interview.

Authorities were preparing to charge the teenage boy with premeditated murder on Wednesday.

There are more than 10,000 such legally imported guns in circulation in Thailand, and police will work with other government agencies to reclassify them as deadly firearms to block their import, Torsak said

"We want to make these guns are a controlled firearm because their modification make them a deadly weapon," he told Thailand's Channel 3 television channel.

Torsak, who took over as the country's top cop earlier this week, said police will also form a team to tackle illegal sale of firearms on the internet.

'LESSONS FROM PAST SHOOTINGS'

Authorities can boost gun control by improving enforcement, including creating a faster mechanism to block websites and online services that offer to sell or modify firearmx, said Krisanaphong Poothakool, a criminologist at Rangsit University.

The political will to push for long-term gun control is also essential, he added.

Existing Thai laws on the possession of illegal firearms carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 20,000 Thai baht($539.67).

Laws have tightened after mass shootings in recent years in Thailand, including a requirement for a medical evaluation for those who want to buy a gun or renew their gun license.

Last October, a former policeman killed 35 people, including 22 children, at a nursery in northeastern Thailand. And in 2020, a soldier shot and killed at least 29 people in another northeastern Thai city.

Following the October shooting, Thailand's previous administration drafted a gun amnesty bill allowing those with unregistered weapons to register them or hand them over to authorities during a grace period. The bill, however, did not make it through parliament ahead of a May general election.

"The government should learn the lessons from past mass shooting incidents, review the proposed solutions and quickly implement them," Krisanaphong said. - REUTERS

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