A total gun ban will disarm only law-abiding citizens and leave the criminals to prowl the streets, President Aquino said Wednesday as he rejected calls for such a ban being imposed in the country.
In his first news conference in the new year, Mr. Aquino said the calls for a total ban was a “knee-jerk reaction” that would not solve gun-related crimes.
“I’m not the kind who flatters people. Let’s find a way to solve the issue and not try to be cute,” said the President, a gun enthusiast who shoots for sport.
If such a ban were enforced, the criminals would rule, he said.
Lawmakers, citizen’s groups and civil society organizations are spearheading calls for a total gun ban following the death from New Year’s Eve celebratory gunfire of 7-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella in Caloocan City, and the killing of eight people and injuring of 12 others by a drunk and drug-addled former barangay official in Cavite on Jan. 4.
The President apparently has a kindred soul in Sen. Vicente Sotto who similarly dismissed calls for a total gun ban as a “knee jerk reaction” to the Cavite killings and would not prevent a repeat of the bloodbath.
“If we outlaw guns, then only the outlaws will have guns, as the saying goes. The citizenry will be at the mercy of the criminal elements with high-powered guns as their disposal,” Sotto said in a statement.
Instead of a total gun ban, the government should instead increase the budget of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency so it could upgrade its antidrug operations, he said.
But former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., a senatorial candidate in the May elections, agreed with those calling for a permanent gun ban.
“The government should immediately take a bold move and put an end to senseless killings. It is time to enforce a permanent ban on guns,” said Magsaysay who has been active in the campaign for a gunless society since 1997.
He urged Congress to act on several pending bills aimed at imposing harsher punishment against individuals wielding firearms when they are not allowed to carry these.
“Only responsible and qualified citizens should be issued permits to carry firearms,” said Magsaysay.
Catholic bishops were among the first to revive calls for a total gun ban following gun-related crimes in recent weeks.
Several groups, including the Gunless Society, has asked Mr. Aquino 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.
The Citizen’s Protection Act of 2010, filed by citizens through an indirect initiative, seeks to limit the carrying of firearms in public places to personnel directly and primarily engaged in police, military and security matters. But no lawmaker has seen fit to sponsor it, and the committee on public order has not moved to tackle it.
“A law that seeks to reform the outlaws will not work. You need a law that will sanction them further and to prove as a deterrent,” the President said.
He claimed that some states in the United States that liberalized the issuance of concealed handgun license/permits reported a drop in crime statistics, while states that did the opposite saw a rise in the number of crimes.
The President indicated, however, that he was agreeable to proposals seeking higher penalties for illegal possession and illegal discharge of firearms.
Asked if he would lead by example on gun use, Mr. Aquino said: “I think I lead by example by conforming to the law. I think you will acknowledge that I was a victim of violence in this aspect in 1987 and both by Church and the law recognizes my right to self-defense. Self-defense is a skill and it’s a skill that has to be practiced to have any value.”
He was referring to his ambush by rebel soldiers near Malacañang during the August 1987 coup against his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.