Eleftheria Bernidaki-Aldous

Athens News - Cretans, drop your guns

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PUBLIC Order Minister George Voulgarakis, is native of Crete, and his deputy minister Christos Markoyianakis, also from the island, called on fellow compatriots to resist the age-old custom of firing guns in the air at weddings, baptisms, funerals and other social gatherings. The two men visited the village of Anogeia near Iraklio on July 22 to launch a campaign against this dangerous tradition.

Police reports show 10 deaths and more than three dozen injuries on Crete from gunfire accidents in the last 10 years. It is reported that nearly every Cretan owns a gun. Many firearms are passed from one generation to another.

Voulgarakis announced the government-sponsored anti-gun lobby on the island will be headed by world-renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis. The decision to launch the campaign was triggered by a request from Vasilis Kokotakis, a primary school student who was injured when a gun backfired last year.
According to New Democracy MP Eleftheria Bernidaki-Aldous, the call for Cretans to drop their guns can no longer fall on deaf ears. She lost her eye sight at age three when she found a hand grenade from the Second World War, which accidentally exploded.

"My accident has nothing to do with this custom, but there is a parallel here as regards my own experience of becoming blind," said Bernidaki-Aldous, who is also from Crete. "Firstly, arms that should not be there and secondly that an innocent person may be injured. Life is too precious, and people should have the right to enjoy it without anyone else inflicting injury."

As regards the Cretan custom of firing guns into the air at social celebrations, the MP said the government's initiative is a long-time coming. "In previous decades and centuries, the people who used to carry arms in the local communities and villages were usually the bravest and the leaders," she said. "Whereas these days, with the growing accessibility of arms, the people who carry them may not even be able to use them right... Now anyone can buy a Kalashnikov and use it. So, I think that it is urgent to help raise a new awareness and recognise that things have changed. There is so much for which Cretans can and should be proud of that they do not need to stick to this one custom."


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