Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Ban the gun

Tough on guns
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Philippine National Police recently disclosed a plan to extend the gun ban imposed during the election season to curb violence due to the unrestricted use of firearms. We would go further than that: We strongly propose the enforcement of a permanent gun ban of the type suggested by Nandy Pacheco of the Gunless Society.

These are the salient features of the gun policy proposed by Pacheco:

—Declare as contrary to public policy, public morals, public order, good customs and public interest the glorification of guns and the culture of violence in the movies, television, radio, print media, billboards, pro-gun stickers, etc.

—Make it a criminal offense for anyone to carry firearms in public unless the bearer is authorized, in uniform and on duty. This will put a stop to the issuance of “permits to carry firearms outside residence” except to authorized law enforcement officers in uniform and on duty. Violation of this rule should be penalized with a long prison term with no possibility of pardon or parole.

—Melt down all smuggled, illegal and confiscated guns for conversion figuratively into plowshares and literally into manhole covers and other useful things.

—Regulate the importation of firearms for private use.

Pacheco said the underlying principle of the proposed gun policy is that “you cannot control crime without controlling the criminal, and you cannot control the criminal without controlling the gun.”

He added: “The point of gun-control legislation is to make the harmless act of carrying a gun in public a criminal offense before such act turns into a violent one like murder, homicide, robbery, kidnapping, etc. It seeks to stop gun violence before it begins.”

Pacheco’s proposal makes a lot of sense, and we recommend it to the incoming president for adoption through an executive order, if that is legally possible, or, if not, for legislation by Congress. We believe that the enforcement of the proposed gun ban would help correct the culture of violence and lawlessness and pave the way to peace and law and order in our country.

Actually, what is being proposed is not a total gun ban but gun control, as explained by PNP Director-General Jesus Verzosa and Pacheco himself. Verzosa said some persons will still be allowed to carry guns but under strict controls and conditions.

The statistics in two past elections tell the story of the effectiveness of gun control. In 2003, the crime rate for index crimes per 100,000 population was 52.1 percent, whereas in 2004, an election year, the crime rate decreased by 1 percentage point to 51.1 percent. In 2006, the crime rate for index crimes was 47.8 percent whereas in 2007, an election year, it decreased by 6 percentage points to 41.8 percent. A Comelec gun ban is imposed during the election period. (Index crimes include crimes against persons such as murder, homicide, physical injury and rape and crimes against property such as robbery and theft.)

The PNP said that the last elections were “the most peaceful” compared to the 2004 and 2007 elections (although 18 persons were killed). Many of the election-related attacks took place in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, an area historically notorious for election violence and mayhem.

To be very effective, the proposed gun ban would have to be undertaken together with:

—An intensive campaign to dismantle about 170 private armies across the country, most of them in the restive ARMM.

—An intensified campaign against crime syndicates, including robbery gangs and kidnapping, car theft and drug smuggling syndicates.

—Increased police visibility, with more patrol cars cruising the streets and foot patrols pounding the pavements. Director Roberto Rosales of the National Capital Region Police Office attributed a 35 percent decrease in robberies, an 18 percent reduction in car theft incidents, a 74 percent decrease in physical injury cases and an 8 percent drop in murder and rape cases in the first three months of this year to the Comelec gun ban and increased police visibility program.

The challenge before the next administration, Congress and the PNP is to get tough on guns and to get serious about crime prevention.

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