Guns, guns, guns | Inquirer Opinion
There’s the Rub

Guns, guns, guns

The good news is that the government is tightening up on gun ownership, imposing all sorts of restrictions on it.

Republic Act No. 10591, passed last week, begins by recognizing the constitutional right of Filipinos to defend themselves through firearms. But it sets the following criteria for owing them. You must: be a full-fledged citizen, be at least 21 years old, have a gainful occupation or business, have filed your income tax for the preceding year, not have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, have passed a psychiatric test given by a psychologist or psychiatrist accredited by the Philippine National Police, have passed drug testing by an authorized lab or clinic, and have taken a gun safety seminar held by the PNP or a gun club.

The bad news is everything else.

The new law took off from the public clamor for some kind of gun control following the death of a 7-year-old girl from a gunshot wound in the head in Caloocan during the New Year’s Eve revelries. This was swiftly followed by drug-crazed man going on a shooting rampage in Cavite, killing eight, including another 7-year-old girl, and wounding nine, including four children. The public went up in arms demanding to know why guns were finding their way in the hands of the criminally insane. This is the answer to it.

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An answer that’s like, well, trying to plug a gaping gunshot wound with tissue paper.

At the very least, the problem is how effective the restrictions will be in preventing guns from ending up in the hands of the loonies. You see what happens in the drug testing that goes on when you get, or renew, your driver’s license. Indeed, you see what happens in the testing for smoke-belching that goes on when you register, or renew the registration of, your vehicle. The flunking rate in those tests is low, aided in no small way by the testers being persuaded to look the other way by an augmentation in their income. It merely adds whole new layers of bureaucratic tape, offering whole new opportunities for graft.

While at this, there’s no small irony in the PNP being in charge of determining the psychological fitness of prospective gun owners. You give a psychiatric test to the ranks of the PNP itself, and you will deplete it epically. Most of them will fail. Or maybe many of them will pass, but only because there’s a certain logic, rationality, rhyme and reason to crime. The cops who massacred the convoy in Atimonan were not entirely out of their minds: They were quite logically, rationally, sanely ridding themselves of the competition in the illegal numbers racket.

More than that, even if you could assure that current and prospective gun owners are of reasonably sound mind and body, what’s to assure that they will remain so throughout the course of their gun ownership? What’s flaky about the progun camp’s claim that gun owners are responsible individuals is that they presume they will be responsible at all times. When this country supplies no end of provocation to test the equanimity or forbearance of anyone, chief of them people who have handguns stashed in their glove compartments or assault rifles in their trunks.

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There is such a thing as road rage, which driving conditions in this country constantly and furiously stoke. It may be a temporary or fleeting madness, but all it takes is an instant to gun someone down while in the throes of it. More than that, there’s the proliferation of drugs and alcohol in this country that can induce not-very-temporary fits of madness among those with permits to carry guns.

I’m glad in this respect that the government now proposes to crack down on drunk driving. Quite apart from the danger in road accidents that drunk drivers pose to pedestrians and other motorists, there’s the added danger of the mayhem they pose to the public when carrying guns in their cars. Drinking is the national pastime, as the plenitude of beerhouses along with guns attests to. It’s not just that drinking and driving don’t mix, it’s that drinking and carrying guns don’t mix. Drinking lessens inhibition, the inhibition to shoot people who’ve stepped on their toes, real or imagined, among them.

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That brings me to the startling thing in the law, which is the number of professionals that can apply for a permit to carry guns. They include lawyers or members of the Philippine Bar, CPAs, media practitioners, cashiers, bank tellers, priests, ministers, imams, doctors, nurses, engineers, and businessmen. These are people presumed to be in positions of great risk, which justifies their carrying guns. This is worse than before. As friends of mine tell me, the only people now who may not tote guns are the magsasaka.

It’s madness. Even if you grant that carrying guns allows one to protect oneself—which it does not, it merely allows criminals and rebels to add to their arsenal by lifting those arms from them—who will protect us from them? The presumption that they are potential victims may be true, but the presumption that they are potential oppressors is even truer. You arm them, and arm them heavily, and the truth of the first will recede before the march of the second.

You arm media people, for one, and they will not naturally become less of an endangered species, they will more naturally make their enemies so. You arm the hao-siao journalists in particular, and they are going to get bolder and more corrupt.

The point is to stop the proliferation of arms, which has become alarming. Currently, there are 2.83 million registered and unregistered guns in the hands of civilians alone, costing a staggering P56.6 billion. For a poor country that lacks food, that lacks clinics, and that lacks classrooms, that is mindless, that is criminal. The point is to have education, education and education.

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Not guns, guns, guns.

TAGS: firearms, gun control, Gun ownership

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