Gun control in the entire country

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2016 - 9:00am

This nation needs a gun ban, not just during the election period, which has officially kicked off, but throughout the year. I have always advocated for a gun ban because the rise in violent crimes has gotten increasingly out of control these past few years. Granted we’ve had violent crimes in the past, but the ease with which individuals can own and have guns has caused a lot of arguments to quickly go from a scuffle to a gun-related death. Perhaps people can no longer properly control their tempers or maybe there are just too many people out there bumping each other the wrong way. Either way, we should not be giving more and more people a way to end an argument by pulling a trigger.

In fact, gun control is becoming an issue all over the world. With what has been happening in America, one can’t help but face the realities of gun issues. President Obama was seen just recently shedding tears on national television as he addressed the realities of gun violence in the United States and I think he is on the right track. It is ludicrous that the US has lost over 225,000 Americans to gun violence in the past seven years and it’s even more ridiculous that the numbers had to get so high before people realized that it’s truly time to do something about it.

Gun enthusiasts will always go back to saying that it is their constitutional right to bear arms. But the thing is that that particular amendment was drafted so long ago when the country could not afford to supply and arm their own military. Sometimes regular citizens would be called upon to help and they would need their own guns. Fast-forward years and years into the future and the same no longer holds true. These days, it’s become so easy for any Tom, Dick, and Harry to get their hands on a weapon that, in many places, it’s more shocking that people don’t have guns as opposed to when they do.

With the rise in violent crimes all over the world, it’s not surprising that some would say that they need guns to protect themselves and their homes. But when you look at it from that point of view, therein lays the crux of the problem. Crime and violence need to be addressed and solved in more efficient ways and arming more and more regular citizens is not the way to do it. After all, gun violence is not just about people going out and shooting up the town. A lot of deaths are the result of accidents as well. Simply put, guns can just as easily cause as much damage as they are supposed to prevent.

Here in the Philippines, gun ban (along with the ban on prohibited drugs) is something that is always done during election periods. This is because it has become quite common for election rivals to “take care” of their opponents in a violent way. We won’t ever forget the lives lost due to election violence and I think it’s only fitting that we try to impose stricter laws and harsher punishments to our would-be officials who break those laws.

That’s actually where we run into problems. We are not lacking in “good intentions” so to speak. We have laws and bans in place, the problem we always seem to face is implementation. We have a law that should be followed, people don’t follow it anyway and we are not equipped to truly go after them and enforce the laws. That’s the problem. People brazenly choose not to follow the law because they are not worried about getting caught. Or worse, they know that if they get caught, they can just get out of it.

I hope we are more ready and prepared this campaign season. We need to be able to implement peacekeeping measures more strictly and ensure that the election goes off as cleanly and as peacefully as possible. The gun ban must be partnered with more aggressive efforts to bring those who break it, especially those who commit violent crimes, to justice. This is especially true in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Not only do they have the worst history of gun-related election violence, but armed thugs and paid “enforcers” might also use guns and weapons to scare citizens and influence the vote.

It’s time to go beyond just saying we have measures in place and actually impose those measures with a firm hand. We have a chance to make things different this 2016. I truly hope we are up to the task.

* * *

We had a delightful and informative meeting last week at the Edsa Shangri-la Heat coffee shop where the prestigious Tuesday Club coffee group has been meeting for nearly 25 years. We’d like to continue to extend our gratitude to this excellent hotel for housing our eclectic group over the years and giving us a wonderful venue for lively discussions about the Philippines, the future of the country, and so much more.

Last Tuesday, our special guest was my good friend, BSP Governor Amando ‘Say’ Tetangco Jr., who is also a lifetime member of the Tuesday Club. ‘Say’ Tetangco always helps us open the year by giving us a preview of the country’s economy for the 12 months ahead. It gives us a picture of what we might expect. Although the worldwide economy appeared to be on a downtrend a couple of weeks ago, Governor Tetangco said they remain fairly optimistic that the Philippines will withstand the turmoil and remain on track to meet its forecast.

It’s always a pleasure meeting with Governor Tetangco, who as I mentioned previously, was cited by the New York based magazine Global Finance as one of the world’s top central bankers. He earned a prestigious grade of ‘A’ on their banker’s report card with eight other heads of central banks worldwide. He is also the first central bank governor to serve in the BSP for two consecutive terms.

He is a true patriot of this country and it was a blessing to have him join us. We wish Governor Tetangco continued health and success in the coming years at the helm of BSP.

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