Ping, Pong defend gun law: It takes only 1 bullet
Lawmakers are pointing to the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act as a trigger for the alleged scheme of planting bullets in airline passengers’ bags in an attempt to extort money from them.
Under the 2013 law, unauthorized possession of ammunition—whether one or many—would merit the same penalty of imprisonment of six to 12 years.
Under threat of facing such a harsh penalty, some passengers allegedly found carrying a bullet might just opt to make a deal with authorities and pay up in exchange for the dropping of charges.
In the wake of public uproar over allegations of “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) at the airports, suggestions were made to impose no penalties on those caught with just one to three bullets, and just confiscate the ammunition.
But the principal author of the ammunition law in the Senate, former Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, said he could not immediately back the adjustment of the penalties imposed for the unauthorized possession of ammunition.
According to Lacson, it was important to look at the context or circumstances of the confiscation of a bullet.
“One bullet found in the pocket or clutch bag of a person who has a past record of being a suspected assassin may be more dangerous than a gun enthusiast and shooter who has a box of reloaded ammunition in his possession,” Lacson said in a text message.
He also said a proposal to exempt outright from criminal liability a person possessing just one bullet “smacks of a reactionary attitude.”
“We should instead look at the bigger picture when we revisit the law involving firearms and ammunition,” Lacson said.
He said allowing the possession of one bullet was no guarantee of protection from extortion. If this were the case, nothing would stop an unscrupulous law enforcement officer from planting more bullets in a passenger’s bag to try to extort money from him or her.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo “Pong” Biazon, the measure’s principal author in the House of Representatives, said he had no objection to the proposal to reexamine the law and study it.
But Biazon also explained why the law sought to penalize the possession of even a single bullet in the first place.
“Ammunition is ammunition, whether one or two. It’s still ammunition. One ammunition can kill,” he said in a phone interview.
Biazon said the review of the law could be conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, as the issue was also a police matter.
“In light of the issues in Naia (Ninoy Aquino International Airport), I agree with having a review of this provision of the law,” he said.
Amulet not prohibited
Sen. Ralph Recto said an amulet made out of an empty bullet casing was not a prohibited item.
Several passengers caught with bullets at Naia have contended that they carried the item only as an amulet.
Under the implementing rules and regulations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, “ammunition” is defined as a “complete unfired unit” that consists of a “bullet, gunpowder, cartridge case and primer,” Recto said.
“If only the cartridge remains and this has been repurposed into an amulet or a fashion bling, then it is no longer a bullet. So, it is not illegal to wear it. You can only be charged by your friends of being baduy [unfashionable], but you can’t be charged in court,” he said.
A bullet without gunpowder or primer, especially if turned into a key chain, would already be useless, he added.
Law applies only to live bullet
According to Recto, the law penalizes only the illegal possession of a complete ammunition or a live bullet.
The implementing rules also define the four components of a complete ammunition, which are the primer, gunpowder, cartridge case and the bullet, he said.
Recto also said that while airlines and airport authorities could have the prerogative to prohibit the carrying of amulets made out of empty cartridges, they should just confiscate these items and throw these away.
“The only hassle for air travelers who wear it or keep it in the bag is that it will be detected by an X-ray machine and will be subjected to inspection,” he added.
But he also said if it was obvious that a bullet was already useless, authorities should just leave it alone. Passengers should just ensure that their destination has no prohibition against carrying such items.
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