By Liz Lucas
“Happy shooting” seems to be the new normal here. It’s been over a month since Tripoli fell and from my hotel I can still hear the bullets that soldiers shoot into the air each night. In other towns throughout the country it is the same.
The celebratory shooting is new to Libya. “There really isn’t much of a history of this here in Libya,” said a woman in the town of Zintan. “But now there are so many weapons, so much excitement, and many soldiers are bored. It is a problem.”
It’s more than an annoyance. Media reports indicate that others have been harmed by stray bullets from the victory shootings, some in their own backyard. Civilians have told us they are worried about the situation.
“Bullets that go up also come down,” one resident told me, a sentiment that has been repeated by many.
There are so many guns in Libya, many in the hands of people who had never handled a weapon before this year. Office workers, students, construction workers are carrying AKs in the street. Medical workers in different areas of the country have told our team about accidents—in one place there were nine injuries reported this week from accidental shootings. A girl playing with a gun shot her father, a boy of twelve shot his thumb off, a man shot himself in the foot. Stories like this are becoming too common.
But it looks like the military councils are beginning to listen. In Tripoli, I heard they’ve started to charge a fee of 300 Libyan dinars to soldiers caught “happy shooting.” Residents are also taking it into their own hands with groups lobbying for a safer city. In other areas, guns are turned into police stations and registration has begun. These are huge steps, especially in a country that is still in the midst of war.
But even tonight, despite the outrage and laws, I am still being rocked to sleep by the sounds of bullets shooting the sky.