Jun 042013
Did President Benigno Aquino III sign the comprehensive gun law because of his love for shooting?

An anti-gun group thinks so.

“Malaking factor yun. Eh mahilig din siya sa baril eh,” Randy Pacheco, founder of the Gunless Society, said in an interview that aired Monday on GMA News’ Saksi.

Despite calls for a total gun ban early this year following the death of seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella due to a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve, Aquino on Wednesday signed Republic Act 10591, or “An Act Providing for Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof,” which allows casual gun enthusiasts to own up to 15 guns, and “serious collectors” to possess 15 or more firearms.

“Serious collector” undefined

Under the constitution, gun ownership is a privilege and not a right.

The new law supersedes Executive Order 194, signed by President Joseph Estrada in 2000, which allowed unlimited gun ownership and which itself had removed a previous 10-gun ownership limit.

Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Office (PNP FEO) spokesperson Chief Inspector Nelson Bautista told GMA News Online in a phone interview Tuesday that even when gun ownership was unlimited, their office has done checks before issuing gun licenses, “lalo pag marami na [ang baril niya]. We check capability, kung bakit itong taong ‘to, marami nang baril, and is still securing a license.”

But Bautista was not able to define what exactly a “collector” or “serious collector” is, based only on the published law.

“Itong batas na ito kasi, bagong bago pa, hindi pa natin madetermine [yung specific details] kasi wala pang Implementing Rules and Regulations [IRR]. So hindi ko pa rin masasabi kung ano yung definition ng collector,” he said.

The IRR is expected to be released within 120 days after the law takes effect.

Differing views

For Pacheco, the new law will only make guns more accessible, and in turn will make it easier for gun owners to resort to violence.

“Ang daming instances, dahil may baril ka diyan, madali mong kukunin. Ang atin dito, is to remove the guns from your hands, para walang mangyayari,” he said.

Pacheco said that as a gun enthusiast, President Aquino should define protocols for the sport, instead of passing a gun law that will simply make guns accessible to more people.

“Ang gusto ko lang maunawaan naman niya, hindi naman siya pinagbabawalan magkaroon ng baril, [kung] mahilig sa target shooting, okay lang. Pero isipin naman niya ang sambayanang Pilipino,” he said.

But pro-gun groups are singing a different tune, saying that the new law will allow civilians to protect themselves.

“The police cannot protect us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Kailangan din mayroong civilian factor dito, to provide for your own self-defense, to a certain extent,” lawyer and Pro-Gun Philippines president Ernesto Tabujara said in the same report.

However, Tabajura criticized a particular provision in the law that states the need for individuals who want to carry guns outside their homes to undergo a threat assessment test to be administered by the PNP.

“The law actually needs some streamlining. It could be subject to abuse, in the sense na yung mga threat assessment na yan, which should be discretionary, could be subject of corruption,”  he said.

Waiting for the IRR

According to Bautista, gun owners have nothing to fear as the IRR will be able to explain the nitty gritty of the law.

“Sa IRR ise-spell out yung guidelines, magiging klaro, isusulat lahat, maski yung mga forms needed,” Bautista said.

Bautista also noted that the PNP FEO wight be tapped to help write the IRR.

“We don’t know yet, but because of our expertise, we might be tapped to help in writing the IRR,” he said.

Other than the prescribed 15 guns per person, Bautista noted that the new law differs from EO 194 in such a way that some other sectors of society including lawyers and priests will be allowed to carry guns outside of the home, due to the percieved threats on their lives.

“Ang salient features ng law, dati yung lawyers, yung members of the integrated bar, hindi kasama sa ‘professions considered to be under threat.’ But because siguro they represent different and sometimes opposing parties, they were included,” Bautista said.

Kami naman, we believe that the intentions of our legislators in crafting laws ay para sagutin at klaruhin yung mga [pagkukulang sa existing laws.] Kami sa PNP umaakto ng tama to implement these laws.

Tighter requirements

Meanwhile, PNP spokesperson P/Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo also stressed that the new law states that both gun owner and the actual gun should be licensed under the PNP.

“Dati, [iisang] lisensya. [Nagyon kailangan na ng] firearms license pag mag-apply ka, both nung owner at nung baril. Paghihiwalayin ito—ibig sabihin, nagrerequire na ng lisensya for the person who is intending to acquire firearms, kukuha siya ng lisensya. Separate pa rin yung lisensya nung baril na kukunin niya,” Cerbo said in the Saksi report.

The law also carries steeper punishments for those caught illegally possessing firearms, with jail time increased from one to six years before the new law to six to 12 years.

Similarly, under the new law gun owners need to renew their guns’ licenses every two years, instead of the three years earlier prescribed by EO 194. — BM, GMA News

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