Saturday, February 9, 2013

Palace backs moves to update gun laws

Palace backs moves to update gun laws (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is supporting moves to have the country’s antiquated gun laws modified as it seeks a debate on gun policies and not on President Aquino, a known gun enthusiast. “Perhaps it would be better if we talk at the level of policy (of gun control) and not on the personal preferences of the President,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio station dzRB yesterday. Valte said the country’s gun laws were outdated. There were growing calls for stricter gun laws following the shooting rampage in Kawit, Cavite that left eight dead and 12 others wounded on Friday. “When it comes to stricter penalties, that is a question for legislation. We have several laws in place that address, for example, the alarming scandal. The penalty is P200 and you have to remember that the Revised Penal Code was enacted in 1901, so it really has to be updated,” Valte said. She said the Department of Justice (DOJ) was working on updating the Revised Penal Code. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Valte said the total gun ban during holidays would still be discussed with President Aquino. “Even the Gunless Society was not proposing a total gun ban, but all these proposals will have to be discussed with the President,” she said. To date, there are 20 bills on gun control pending in Congress amid rising deaths and injuries from firearms. House to review gun laws The House of Representatives will review the country’s gun laws in the wake of recent violent incidents involving the use of firearms here and abroad. Last Thursday, a man suspected to be using illegal drugs went wild in Kawit, Cavite, killing seven persons, including two children, before policemen shot him to death. On New Year’s Eve, seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella was hit by a stray bullet in Caloocan City and died a few days later. Two lawmakers have sought tighter firearms control. Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado has filed House Bill 6783, which seeks to ban civilians from possessing, carrying or using guns. Mercado said the recent fatal shooting of 27 schoolchildren in Connecticut “has warned all of us on the dangers of allowing ordinary citizens to acquire or possess firearms.” Mercado’s bill is entitled “An Act prohibiting the use or possession of guns or firearms of any kind by ordinary citizens other than law enforcement personnel and members of the Armed Forces.” Those allowed to possess or keep firearms under the bill are members of the national police, Army, Navy and Air Force, licensed security guards, and personnel of other agencies as determined by the President, the Speaker and the Senate president. The Department of the Interior and Local Government would be tasked to issue the implementing rules and regulations. The bill does not provide for penalties for violations of the firearms ban. Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, on the other hand, said the Kawit bloodbath and the Connecticut massacre should prompt Congress and the administration to impose tighter gun control measures. Castelo said immediate measures like revoking firearm carrying permits and checking the background of gun owners like those involved in Kawit and the New Year firearm discharge in Caloocan City can be done by the PNP or Malacañang. He proposed that civilians be prohibited from owning assault rifles and gun ownership and carrying should be strictly regulated. He said only those with real and verified threats to their lives should be permitted to carry short firearms, provided that they pass strict psychological and psychiatric tests. Suspend permit to carry firearms Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged the PNP to consider a suspension of all permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) to prevent more firearm-related incidents in the future. Lacson, former PNP chief, said only uniformed police personnel on active duty should be allowed to carry firearms. This would also exclude the intelligence operatives of the PNP, who Lacson said should not be carrying firearms “since their mission calls for covert operations anyway.” “The misplaced perception that one seen with firearm tucked in his waist could be a law enforcer instead of a criminal element out to commit a crime must be reversed,” Lacson said. While Lacson’s approach may be considered as too drastic by some sectors, especially those that advocate the right to carry firearms, two other senators proposed more practical ways to address the recent shooting incidents. Sen. Francis Pangilinan emphasized the need to go after the suspects in the Kawit and Caloocan shootings and ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Sen. Francis Escudero, for his part, said there are existing regulations that have to be implemented and enforced to trace the perpetrators and prevent such incidents from happening again. He cited the ballistic data of all registered guns, which could be used by the authorities to trace where the bullet that hit Ella came from. Vice President Jejomar Binay also asked the PNP to double its efforts in the campaign against irresponsible use of firearms. He said the PNP should go after owners of loose firearms. Binay made the call as he condoled with the family of Ella, who died after being hit by a stray bullet in the head on New Year’s Eve. “A stricter enforcement of gun laws is badly needed. I challenge the PNP to exert all efforts to bring those responsible to justice,” he said. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma supported calls to study the policy on implementing a total gun ban to avoid deaths caused by indiscriminate firing. Palma said the Aquino administration should conduct a thorough study on the pros and cons of extending the gun ban after the election period. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) yesterday challenged the Aquino administration to review policies on gun ownership and gun control. VACC chairman Dante Jimenez asked the government to come up with tougher laws on gun control and impose death penalty on heinous crimes. – With Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy, Jose Rodel Clapano, Evelyn Macairan

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