I am often asked if gun ownership is the solution to the perceived increasing crimes and the brutality of crimes committed.
This question reveals the wrong perception that, in the Philippines, guns can prevent crimes and that guns are the main instruments of criminality. There is a manifested confusion between possessing and owning of firearms.
The Philippines is the only country in Asia and the Pacific that allows widespread civilian gun ownership although there is no constitutional right to bear arms. A number of well-meaning people thought that this fact is both beneficial and dangerous. Beneficial in the sense that only “qualified” civilians can own and possess firearms for sports or self-defense, and can even qualify to carry firearms outside their residences. They also assume that gun ownership can also be used in combating crimes. Others consider gun ownership as propensity to commit crimes.
Statistics shows that crimes involving the use of firearms are lower than those committed with bladed weapons. Very few are committed by licensed gun owners which are mostly claimed as acts of self defense.
I am for the responsible ownership, possession and carrying of firearms. I used to be a member Progun years back but I believe that gun ownership is not an effective way to prevent crimes from happening nor it is a means to address the increasing crime rate in the country. The reasons why I think responsible and licensed gun ownership is not effective way to prevent crimes are:
- Almost all responsible civilian gun owners are less likely to expose themselves to danger; therefore, lesser chance of becoming crime victims.
- Responsible gun owners are not prone to commit crimes because they are considered “responsible” in the first place. Their guns are licensed and traceable. Only lawless elements or those with sinister plans will possess unlicensed guns.
- Carrying of guns by those with license and permit to carry is required to be concealed when in public places. If it’s kept from plain view, how will it deter crimes?
- Not all gun owners know how to carry and use their guns. Getting a license does not require proof of such skill.
- Not all who know how to use their guns have the will power to shoot or kill even in self-defense. Gun Club Membership means shooting at paper boards and metal plates. How do we know if one is capable of shooting a person then?
Before we issue guns to everyone, it would be better if we first study the crimes in this country. Aren’t there more crimes involving bladed weapons? Based on recent pronouncements of general sectors, it seems that guns can prevent crimes from happening. But is this what the statistics are showing?
Think with me here. Could crimes be prevented if both parties have guns? If the Vizcondes have guns at home, could the weapons prevent the heinous crime from happening? If Alex Tioseco carried a gun, would there be a shootout with his robbers and killers? Let’s look at the profile of the victims. Mother and daughters at home. Film critic and lover going home. It’s doubtful that they can trade shots with their killers.
Reports of crimes involving celebrities sensationalized by the media usually draw out the quality of logical and thought process of some sectors. Car dealers and carjacking victims, lawyers, justices and media man. Police facilitates issuance of gun licenses and permits to carry to prosecutors. They mull the idea of arming car dealers, too. Would those victimized car dealers shoot at their “buyers” ahead of the perceived carjacking? Would a prospect car buyer transact with a gun-toting car dealer?
We heard of pronouncements that gun permits for prosecutors and judges are being fast-tracked. Firearms inside courtrooms then? How can a judge defend himself from assassins especially while he is driving?
News of buses being held up (or bombed) make others think loudly of deploying bus marshals. Isn’t the memory of a police officer taking hostage bus passengers fresh in our minds? Good thing we haven’t heard of police recommendation to arm the bus drivers and conductors. What if crimes against taxi drivers are highlighted again by the media? Will the police start giving permits to taxi drivers to carry firearms?
If we armed all journalists and those in the media, will it guarantee their security and protection from hired assassins? Will it prevent another Maguindanao massacre? I don’t think so. If those in the convoy were all armed, a shoot-out could have started at the checkpoint along the highway and the Ampatuans could have claimed self-defense. Will it prevent a lone journalist on investigative work from becoming part of statistics? It depends on the situation.
Our Philippine constitution does not provide the right to bear arms. Statistics doesn’t show that by bearing – or not bearing – guns, crimes can be greatly reduced. A violent incident in Tucson, Arizona early last year is a classic example. The gunman was able to kill six people and wound 13 more. He was mentally insane and was finally apprehended when a licensed gun owner subdued the gunman. To see each side of the fence, these guys are both armed: one without a license to carry and the other wielding his licensed gun.
In Kennesaw, Georgia, United States, otherwise known as Gun Town USA, every head of household is required to have a gun and sufficient ammunition. Because of such law, has the crime rate decreased? According to statistics, it has – when people started carrying guns back in 1982, crimes went down by 29% and now, from a population of 5,000, it surged to 33,000 residents as more and more people feel the security of being in the town.
Latest statistics show that in the United States, places where guns are banned have higher crime rates while those with regulated gun ownership have lower than national average crime rates. In countries where gun ownership is almost availed by its citizens, like Israel and Switzerland, crime rate is lower than other countries with gun control laws. So why is it that gun-related crimes are lower in areas where guns are allowed? Taking Kennesaw, Israel and Switzerland as models, people have the awareness that almost everybody has a gun and anyone can surely suppress any criminal act immediately. Bullying and abuses are prevented by the awareness that others can use their firearms in self-defense. Obviously, insane persons do not have such awareness and this is why they are not, should not be, legible to own guns.
Should we allow all Filipinos then to own and carry firearms? Will it be the time that the ordinary citizens will be duly respected by politicians and their fly-on-top-the-carabao bodyguards? Will it bring the end of private armies and warlordism? Will arming everyone in the remote barangays prevent the abuses of the bandits and rebels? Will guns and rifles become a commodity than a prized possession?
Many thought that election gun ban helped lower the crime rate nationwide. If the gun ban lowered only gun-related crime incidents, then the gun ban maybe effective. But if the ban lowered all incidences of crimes, then it was not the ban but the visibility of police officers and the existence of checkpoints in strategic locations that prevented crimes to happen.
My personal belief is that in the Philippines, respect of the law and a working justice system are two components. And this should start with lawmakers and law enforcers themselves. The criminals or, technically those who are aware that they are about to commit a crime, should fear the reality that they will be caught and once caught, they will not escape prosecution.