Guns in the Philippines

There’s a nationwide discussion going on right now about guns in the Philippines. Gun control, gun proliferation, gun bans and gun laws are some of the topics being discussed. And although these issues came about due to violent incidents, sometimes a personal experience shapes our own views and opinions.

A few months ago, our next-door neighbor’s apartment unit was robbed by two men. It wasn’t a totally unexpected event but we were stunned nonetheless. I say not unexpected because break-ins in our neighborhood are not that uncommon. We hear news of these burglaries every now and then from those living nearby. In fact our apartment which has a total of seven units, has been robbed four times already. Luckily, our own unit has not been a victim possibly because we are less accessible from a burglar’s point of view.

It was a quarter to five in the morning when we were awaken by shouts of "magnanakaw, magnanakaw!". (Thieves in English). As I nervously went out to take a look, I found out that it was our landlord doing the shouting.

He said he woke up at around 4 in the morning and saw that the gate was open. He was sure it was closed before he went to bed. He immediately suspected that the next door apartment unit was being robbed. And sure enough there were two men at work inside the unit looking for items they could steal.

Our landlord hurriedly made a call to 117 - the police emergency number. Knowing that he may be overheard by the burglars, he spoke very softly. He asked for them to dispatch policemen to our location. But the call operator was rude and unsupportive. He thought it was a frank call. He even suggested that the reason for the soft voice was that our landlord was having sex nearing orgasm.

After some more discussions our landlord managed to convince the operator that it really was an emergency. The thieves could escape anytime soon if the police will not come. But instead of coordinating with the police, the operator just gave my landlord the phone number of the nearest police station. So he dialed the number but no one was answering the call. He tried several times but still nobody answered.

Alas, the thieves were leaving and our landlord knew no one would be there to catch them. The police would not arrive. So as the thieves were walking out, he took a wooden chair and threw it from the balcony down to one of the men. It hit a man but not enough to stop him on his way to escape.

Our landlord did this as he shouted to alarm the neighborhood. It was a good effort but it wasn't enough. The thieves were able to escape with their loot. The padlock of the gate was missing and the door of the apartment unit was broken.

Who will protect us?

The police did not arrive at all. The incident was reported to the barangay (village leaders) but no action was taken. For them it must have been too common to even bother. But to us, it was a security problem that opened our eyes to the dangers we faced. We felt the police was totally undependable. We knew we had to take steps for our protection.

We thought about moving out. Finding a safer community perhaps. But we decided against it because we knew burglars can strike anywhere. We seriously entertained the idea of owning a gun. Although we felt it was a step we'd rather not take, we thought it may be necessary.

But before getting a gun, we would need to know how to use it first. A gun owner who is clueless about how to use it will just endanger everybody else. He may even pose a danger to himself if he is not careful.

It was agonizing to have to weigh between the peace of living gun-free and the security a gun can bring us. It's for this reason that we've not really moved forward with any step to make our decision.

Gun Violence Across the Nation

But the national attention on guns have made us rethink our dilemma. We are now pinning our hopes on national leadership to implement policies that will bring peace and order. The objective is for citizens to feel at ease about his community that owning a gun would not be necessary.

I know we're a long way from fulfilling that objective. That's why anyone who absolutely needs a gun for protection should still be allowed to own one. But gun ownership ought to be controlled effectively. Strict requirements should be enforced and violations should be stopped. High-ranking officers should be held accountable for failing to implement the law on gun ownership.

The police should do its job to stop the proliferation of illegal guns and confiscate all undocumented guns in the country. It's a tall order no doubt. But they should try because it's their job to implement the law. Otherwise, all of us will suffer living in danger while worrying about it constantly.

It's a situation we would not wish anyone to be in. So why would we accept it for ourselves?

Let's not.

*Photo Credit: Leach84 (Creative Commons)

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