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Feature: US-style shooting rampage kills 8, injures 9 in Cavite

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - A US-style killing rampage on Friday in Kawit, a town of Cavite, killed eight people, including a pregnant woman and a seven-year- old girl, and injured another nine.

Officials identified the gunman as Ronald Bae, a middle aged man who was killed in an ensuing shootout with responding policemen.

Reports said that Bae and several friends were on a "drug and alcohol binge" from Monday to Friday, drinking alcohol and taking methamphetamine, an illegal drug.

On Friday morning, Bae left a store where he and his friends were drinking; then, he returned and began the shooting spree in the surrounding neighborhood, killing first a man who lived across the street from his house.

The drug-crazed gunman then shot and killed the seven-year-old girl inside her home and wounded her two younger siblings.

Malacanang, the seat of the Philippine government, immediately condemned the shooting rampage later Friday.

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Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace is condemning the attack, considering that some of the casualties were children and the sizeable number of deaths.

"As of the moment, what we can say is that this incident will certainly fuel the efforts of the PNP (Philippine National Police) into its drive against loose firearms," Valte said.

The killings in the Philippines happened just three weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn., when a 20- year-old gunman armed with an assault weapon murdered 26 people, including 20 children.

The Cavite carnage also came in the wake of the death of a 7- year-old girl, who was hit by a bullet of unknown origin during traditionally noisy celebrations on New Year's Eve.

Studies show that the United States has the highest per-person percentage of gun ownership in the world, but the Philippines has a much lower gun-ownership ratio.

According to GunPolicy.org, a website hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, there are a mere 4.7 guns for every 100 Filipinos and there are 3.9 million privately licensed firearms in the Philippines.

In the United States, there are 88.8 guns per 100 people and 270 million privately-owned guns in the country.

Despite those numbers, the Philippines has a much higher gun- related homicide rate than the United States, the website said.

Recent data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime show that there were 8.9 homicides per 100,000 people in the Philippines in 2003, while in the United States there were 3.3 homicides per 100,000 people.

The biggest problem in the Philippines is the proliferation of unlicensed guns. Illegal gun ownership and gun trade are particularly rampant in the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao where there is still an unresolved secessionist problem.

Filipinos are required by law to secure a license before they can possess a firearm, and civilians are restricted to a single pistol and either a rifle or shotgun.

Despite this strict requirement, there are an estimated 160,750 illegal guns in the Philippines, according to GunPolicy.org.  

Analysts said that tighter gun restrictions have actually encouraged illegal gun trade.

In fact, in Danao City, in the island of Cebu in the Central Philippines, expert gunsmiths are producing thousands of pistols and other high-caliber guns in cottages in villages with authorities looking the other way.

These illegally-manufactured guns, some of them of world-class quality, are being sold to gangsters and Filipinos who want to protect themselves from criminals.

In the Philippines, a Comprehensive Firearm Control Bill is now pending in the Philippine legislature. The proposed measure is aimed at removing the Philippines on the top of list of countries in the region with the most number of irresponsible gun owners.

In the United States, the tragedy at Sandy Hook has led to a review of federal gun laws and to potentially ban the sale of assault weapons.

As an aftermath of the Newtown, Conn. carnage, more and more American citizens now favor stricter gun control.

In one of its recent editorials, the New York Times said that in countries where there are stricter gun control laws, less homicides or mass killings occur.

The Times editorial said that no country in the world has more guns per capita than the United States, which has some 300 million civilian firearms now in circulation, or nearly one for every adult.

In Japan, the editorial said, which has very strict gun laws, only 11 people were killed with guns in 2008 compared with 12,000 deaths by firearms that year in the United States, a huge disparity even accounting for the difference in population.

Xinhua correspondent in Sydney reported last month that in l996 Australia successfully "nipped in the bud" a putative gun culture that would have rivaled that of the United States.

Within weeks after a lone gunman killed 35 people with a spray of bullets from semiautomatic weapons in Tazmania, the government of then Prime Minister John Howard put in place gun reform laws that banned assault weapons and shotguns, tightened licensing and financed gun amnesty through a massive arms buy-back program.

At the time, Howard said, "we do not want the American disease imported into Australia."

The laws have worked. The American Journal of Law and Economics reported in 2010 that firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006.
 

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