News / December 27, 2013

Media urged to join drive for gun control


By: Jerome Aning, Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 27, 2013.

MANILA, Philippines—A political party on Thursday called on media companies, organizations and practitioners to join the campaign for stricter gun control laws, saying the growing number of killings of journalists and politicians, as well as stray-bullet incidents, are all symptoms of uncontrolled gun proliferation in Philippine society.

Ang Kapatiran Party said media men, instead of arming themselves, should push for amendments of the gun control law limiting the carrying of firearms in public to only those who are authorized, in uniform or on duty.

“Killed for reporting the truth? The killings of journalists in the Philippines isn’t about press freedom. It is about gun control,” read a Kapatiran Party poster uploaded on its website on Christmas Day.

‘Guns don’t die…’

The poster also contained a slogan stating, “Guns don’t die, people do,” a reverse of the progun lobby group’s slogan “Guns don’t kill, people do.”

In a phone interview, Kapatiran president Norman Cabrera said that while motives for the killing of Filipino journalists may be job-related, the fact remained that journalists were killed by guns.

“When a journalist says or writes something and is ordered killed by someone who gets offended, why do we say it’s about press freedom? Nobody is calling the [problem] proliferation of firearms,” Cabrera told the Inquirer.

He pointed out that in criminal cases related to the killings of journalists that get filed before the courts, investigators focus more on the shooting incident itself, probing on who shot the victim, what gun was used, who  it is registered to or if the bullets really came from the suspect’s gun.

Focus on the gun

“The aspects of the shooting incident must first be established before we can say the killing was related to press freedom. But when we can’t even pinpoint who owned the gun that fired the fatal bullets, then the chance to solve the crime is highly unlikely. After some time, they would be forgotten,” he said.

Cabrera said he believes that the number of incidents of journalists and politicians who are shot, as well as people hit by stray bullets during the holiday season and other festivities, are “miniscule compared to the total number of ordinary Filipinos who die due to guns every year.”

This is why the party believes that the victims of guns should not be categorized but instead lumped together because they all originated from the problem of proliferation of firearms, he said.

There are no official statistics on homicides by firearm in the Philippines for over a decade. A study conducted in 2011 by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes listed 7,349 homicides by firearm in the Philippines for 2002 alone. This translates to 8.9 homicides by firearms per 100,000 population.

Cabrera quoted gun policy experts saying that the current gun-related incidents in the Philippines are “very near” to those recorded in the United States, which, according to the UNODC study, had 9,960 homicides by firearm in 2010, translating to 3.2 homicides by firearm per 100,000 population.

Aside from the prohibition on the carrying of firearms in public, Kapatiran is also pushing for a continuing amnesty for owners of unregistered guns and the decommissioning of seized firearms.

Cabrera lamented that the new gun law, Republic Act No. 10591, which was signed by President Aquino last May, does not address the issue of gun proliferation. He said any “qualified individual,” as may be determined by the Philippine National Police chief, may still own up to 15 registered guns.

No solution

The PNP chief is also authorized to issue permits to carry firearms outside of residence to “any qualified person whose life is under actual threat or [whose life] is in imminent danger due to the nature of his/her profession, occupation or business.”

Cabrera said that there are about two million firearms in the country, half of them registered and the other half considered “loose firearms.” Of the one million registered firearms, half are owned by uniformed services and government agents while the other half are owned by civilians.

He recalled in a Senate hearing he attended prior to the approval of RA 10591, the PNP officials could not even say how many permits to carry have been issued.

Cabrera said the PNP should also produce maps showing the concentration of gun owners, gun-related incidents and illegal gun-possession apprehensions to make communities more aware for their safety.

“With all the registered and unregistered firearms in the country, the ordinary people can do nothing but be vigilant and push for stricter gun control laws,” he added, saying that Kapatiran will be filing before both Houses of Congress an initiative to amend RA 10591.

Kapatiran was founded in 1996 by Nandy Pacheco of the Gunless Society of the Philippines, who is the party’s current chair emeritus.