EDITORIAL - Loose firearms
() - July 11, 2002 - 12:00am
Everyone knows that guns can kill, maim or terrorize people. Children have been killed playing with their father’s loaded gun. Simple traffic altercations have turned deadly because one or both of the drivers owned a gun. Each New Year’s Eve people die from stray bullets fired by revelers. Take away guns from everyone except soldiers and cops and life could be more peaceful in this country. Those are among the arguments of groups advocating a gunless society.

Responsible, law-abiding citizens will agree with those arguments. Yet there are also a number of responsible, law abiding citizens who own guns. And their argument is that if guns can kill, guns can also protect. They practice marksmanship because they don’t trust the marksmanship of cops. They bear arms because they feel their government cannot give them adequate protection. They bear arms because there are simply too many thugs out there bristling with state-of-the-art weapons, ready to rob, kidnap, pillage and sow terror. And some of the thugs are cops.

Achieving a gunless society has become a chicken-and-egg thing in this crime-plagued country: should licensed gun owners turn in their firearms first, or should the government get serious in enforcing gun laws by going after all those loose firearms?

A regional anti-gun summit this week in Manila reported that there are 775,000 licensed guns in the country. Estimates of loose firearms, however, run as high as two million. The figures are not surprising, given the ease with which one can obtain a gun in these islands. Politicians are among the biggest clients of gun dealers. No administration has ever succeeded in dismantling private armies. When the Moro National Liberation Front’s Nur Misuari joined the government, no one dared disarm his followers or stop him from building an arsenal — weapons that he later used in staging a mini rebellion.

Cops and soldiers may be reluctant to go after these private armies because of political patronage, or because they themselves are often gun enthusiasts who arm their bodyguards and even their children. Penalties are stiff for illegal gun possession, but political will to enforce gun laws has always been lacking. Without that will, loose firearms will continue to proliferate.

COPS COUNTRY EACH NEW YEAR FIREARMS GOVERNMENT GUN GUNS LOOSE NUR MISUARI WHEN THE MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT
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