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Turkish civilians arm themselves ahead of crucial 2019 polls

As a critical election cycle looms next year, alarm is growing in Turkey over individual armament, especially in pro-government quarters where some have formed dubious groups and openly called on peers to arm themselves.

ANKARA, Turkey — Just two days after the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, Turkish presidential adviser Seref Malkoc said on public television that the government should make it easier for citizens to obtain licensed guns to “protect their right to self-defense against coup attempts.” His words failed to generate much debate in the heat of the events, which had claimed the lives of more than 200 civilians among the crowds that took to the streets to resist the putschists.

Then on Dec. 24, 2017, the government issued a legislative decree that granted judicial immunity to civilians involved in the suppression of the coup attempt, ensuing events and acts of terrorism. Alarmed by the vague wording of the provision, opposition parties argued that such immunity would encourage the formation of militia groups and individual armament, warning of uncontrollable consequences and even a civil war.

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