Of late, there has been much debate in the public sphere on firearms ownership by civilians, i.e., ownership and carrying of licensed firearms by persons other than members of law enforcement and the military. This has been caused both by the usual spate of firearms-related crimes in the Philippines, as well as by the enactment in June 2013 of Republic Act 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
RA 10591 provides the standards and processes for civilians to own and possess firearms, and fills the long existing void in legislation on firearms ownership by individuals, since prior to RA 10591’s enactment a license to own and permit to carry a firearm was entirely dependent on the discretion of the Chief of the Philippine National Police.
Some individual firearms owners have questioned before the Supreme Court certain provisions of RA 10591 and its implementing rules, for being unduly restrictive of the right to own and possess firearms, not to mention civil liberties.
The current brouhaha over civilian firearms ownership once again highlights the hypocrisy in Philippine society insofar as firearms are concerned.
For the average Filipino, and even for many of the so-called educated classes, firearms ownership by civilians is a taboo topic, and not spoken of in polite society.
Yet, it is this same set of people, i.e., the general populace, that depends on armed civilians for their sense of security. The best example of this are the ubiquitous armed security guards that stand watch over practically every establishment in the country, from the smallest convenience stores in the neighborhood to the largest banks in the financial districts.
To the ordinary civilian, the firearm toting security guard is an acceptable, even comforting, sight. Yet, the same ordinary civilian authoritatively states that other than these security guards, only law enforcers and military men should bear arms outside their residences.
However, the average man on the street has never considered that many of these armed security guards, to whom we entrust our safety and ultimately our lives, are poorly trained, poorly paid, and have an even poorer sense of judgment in terms of when they can legally use their firearm.
None of these factors are present when it comes to responsible civilian owners of firearms. Such people use their own hard earned cash to purchase their firearms, and the fact that they choose to do so means that they put in the time and effort to gain and maintain proficiency in using their firearm. Moreover, the conscious decision to purchase a firearm often involves a long analytical process which only one with proper judgment and discernment can manage.
Hence, a private individual who is the owner of a licensed firearm is not only not a threat to his fellow man, he is eminently more qualified than the average security guard to own a firearm.
Despite this, a majority of the populace still believe that the armed security guard is the ultimate symbol of safety, whereas the legally armed civilian is a menace to his fellow man. This mind set is an indictment of the hypocrisy that pervades society today.
Atty. Rodrigo G. Moreno earned his Juris Doctor Degree from the Ateneo De Manila University School of Law, and is the Founding Partner of Moreno and Associates, a Law Firm that specializes in Litigation and Labor and Employment Disputes.
He is the Vice Chairman and General Counsel of Gun Owners in Action, or Go Act, a Non-Stock, Non-Profit organization that advocates for the right of all responsible citizens to arm themselves, and in a broader sense espouses personal security and safety in the community.