Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Saudi student storming school with assault rifle sparks debate in Kingdom

Authorities have arrested the student after a video of the act showed up online

A screenshot of a video posted by Al Riyadh showing a student carrying a rifle at school.
A screenshot of a video posted by Al Riyadh showing a student carrying a rifle at school.

Saudi police have arrested a student who entered school with what appears to be an assault rifle. The incident was captured in a video clip that has sparked a national debate about gun laws and lax security at schools.

The video shows three students entering a school in the area of Aflaj, about 250km south of Riyadh, with one of them holding a gun similar to a Kalashnikov, and climbing the stairs to the second floor where classes were being held.

Riyadh police said on Sunday that the student was in custody and being questioned about his intentions after being identified by education authorities. No details about the student were released but sources told The National he was 17 years old.

Saudi citizens must be 21 or older and pass a background check to be eligible for a licence to own firearms.

The student faces a minimum of 18 months in jail and a fine of up to 6,000 Saudi riyals (Dh5,870) if he is found guilty of possessing a firearm without a licence. The punishment could rise to five years in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 riyals if he is found guilty of intending to use the rifle.

The incident has sparked debate over security in the kingdom's schools, where violent bullying is a common problem, and calls for a crackdown on gun ownership.

Saudi citizen Fayez Al Haqbani said on Twitter that authorities should impose stricter controls and “intensify their presence in the province, especially in the form of security patrols and the establishment of security checkpoints to crack down on those carrying weapons”.

According to gunpolicy.org, a global firearm injury prevention and policy organisation, more than 16 per cent of the population in Saudi Arabia own firearms. The ratio has gone down since 2007, when the 35 per cent of Saudis owned guns.

Abdulrahman Al Mutlaq, a Saudi law student, said society had to also address the root cause of school violence in Saudi Arabia.

“The onus is also on the Islamic organisations and social awareness programmes to develop a long-term contingency plan to remedy these problems from the roots,” Mr Al Mutlaq said on Twitter.

Dr Mohammed Al Ameri, a government education adviser, told the Saudi newspaper Sabq that the issue, although a security concern, should be remedied by educating society and families.

“Schools do not work in isolation from their surroundings; the family and society must also be part of the educational process to ensure the refinement of behaviour,” he said.

He said the incident did not represent a widespread problem in Saudi Arabia, but should be seen as a warning so that measures are taken to ensure it does not happen again.

Updated: February 3, 2019 05:11 PM