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Slays fire up debate on gun ban in Philippines
Publication Date : 07-01-2013
To curb gun crimes, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III should cancel all permits to carry firearms and stop issuing new ones until Congress can enact stricter gun controls, the Gunless Society said yesterday.
But Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, a former police official, opposed gun prohibition, saying responsible citizens must not be deprived of their right to arm themselves for protection, given the police’s inability to protect all the country’s citizens.
Acop disagrees with proposals for a total gun ban, which came after the death of seve-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella, who was hit by celebratory gunfire in Caloocan City on New Year’s Eve, and the shooting rampage of Ronald Bae in Kawit town, Cavite province, on Friday, leaving eight people, including two children, dead and 12 others wounded.
Gunless Society founder Nandy Pacheco said it was about time the government stopped debating whether to adopt a total gun ban, and took concrete steps by cancelling all permits to carry.
“The issue has been debated for more than 20 years. This dilly-dallying is a waste of time,” Pacheco said in a phone interview.
“The president should cancel all permits to carry, and stop their issuance in view of what’s happening,” Pacheco said.
The Roman Catholic Church has joined calls for stricter gun controls and supported proposals for a total ban on firearms.
Pacheco, who has waged a campaign for a total gun ban for more than 20 years, said the cancellation of permits to carry was the next best thing to a total prohibition.
“What we’re trying to do is prevent killings of individuals. The truth about gun is it’s not made to prolong life but to kill. The government must be hard on guns,” he said.
Permits to carry should be cancelled until a total gun ban is enacted, Pacheco said.
But eventually President Aquino has to certify as urgent gun-control measures in the House of Representatives, mainly the proposed Citizen’s Protection Act of 2010 filed by prolife groups and signed by 86 Catholic bishops, and its counterpart measure in the Senate, Pacheco said.
“We’re appealing to him; we’re begging him for heaven’s sake, the time for action has come,” Pacheco said.
“The president should consolidate these [bills] into one, and certify it as urgent,” he said.
Proposals for a total gun ban are now being studied by the president, a gun enthusiast, his deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said on radio on Sunday.
But Acop, vice chairman of the House committee on public order and safety, said in an interview with the Inquirer that he preferred stricter firearm regulations fully enforced.
Acop said that, having served on the police force, he knew the capabilities and limitations of the Philippine National Police.
Law enforcers have too much tasks to do and they cannot be everywhere at the same time so the citizens must be given the chance to defend themselves by being allowed firearms, Acop said.
“That’s why I don’t agree with the total gun ban. We must take into consideration the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to protect the life and property of every Filipino,” he said.
“It would be good if [we could put] a policeman in every nook and corner [of the country]. Unless we reach this situation, I can’t agree [to a total ban].”
The PNP, he said, has yet to achieve the ideal ratio of one policeman to every 500 citizens.
Aside from enforcing the law, he said, the police is also involved in the regulatory job of other governmental agencies.
Bae, the Cavite killer, owned an AK-47 assault rifle, an M-16 rifle rebuilt by Elisco, and a Sig Sauer .45 cal. pistol, with licenses issued by the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office.
The licenses were issued during the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, which declared an amnesty for all holders of loose firearms, according to Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, FEO chief.
“It appears that Bae was able to register his firearms with no questions asked,” Petrasanta said.
He said the 1911 .45 cal. pistol Bae used in his shooting rampage was unlicensed.
With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Marlon Ramos