http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/editorial/view/20080520-137614/Monsters-with-guns Editorial Monsters with guns Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 03:09:00 05/20/2008 MANILA, PhilippinesThe robbery-massacre at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. branch in Cabuyao, Laguna last Friday has once again prompted Nandy Pacheco, proponent of the Gunless Society, to call for stricter gun control. Pacheco urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ask Congress to increase the penalty for illegal possession of firearms to reclusion temporal (from 12 to 20 years imprisonment), without possibility of pardon or parole, and to order a total gun ban in public places except for uniformed police officers who are on duty. The killing of 10 people (the initial death toll of nine increased to 10 when one wounded victim died two days later in the hospital) is truly a heinous crime committed by men who are less than human. If it was only the money that they were after, they could have gotten it without having to kill so many people. If the robbers feared identification, they could have worn bonnets or masks. Or they could have ordered everyone to lie face down, tied them up, blindfolded them and gone about their business of robbing the bank. But no, these were monstersruthless, remorseless killers. The police should exert extra effort to arrest them before they kill other people. The robbers were able to kill the victims because they had easy access to guns. Anyone who has the money can buy gunseven from soldiers and policemen who are supposed to protect the people from criminals and other lawless elements. Something has to be done to close down this official source of guns used in crimes. The first step in dealing with the problem would be, as suggested by Pacheco, to enforce a total gun ban on everybody in public places except for uniformed police officers who are on duty. This can be done, as our experience in the 2004 and 2007 elections has shown. In the 2004 and 2007 elections, the election gun ban helped restrict the movement of criminals and resulted in the arrest of hundreds of people illegally carrying firearms. The police will have to conduct an extensive campaign to collect illegal firearms during the enforcement of the gun ban. All persons carrying firearms outside their houses and who cannot show valid mission orders or permits to carry would have to be challenged and forced to surrender their guns. The government was able to rid the country of loose firearms during the Marcos dictatorship. There is no reason why, with the exercise of political will, it cannot do the same now. The worldwide trend has been to strengthen domestic controls on guns. The United Kingdom, for one, has long had strict controls on firearms. Most of its policemen (bobbies) usually do not carry guns and do so only to deal with sieges, armed robberies, terrorist attacks or to protect diplomats. The gunless police are backed up when needed by units intensively trained not only in marksmanship but in discriminating among dangerous criminals, deranged people and lads out on a lark with air pistols. After the March 1996 killings of 16 primary school children and their teacher by a gun club member in Dunblane, Scotland, a law was passed banning 95 percent of handguns and requiring that the remainder (.22 cal. pistols) be stored at gun clubs. New Zealand amended its gun laws in 1992 following the shooting of 13 people in Aramoana by a young man who was licensed to carry a gun under the regulations existing at that time. In Australia, the National Committee on Violence recommended the national registration of all firearms in 1990 and in May 1995 the former federal justice minister advocated a national system of gun registration as part of crime prevention strategy. Japan has a level of community safety that is unmatched by most of the world and this is reinforced by strong cultural norms. In 1993, some 93 percent of guns seized in Japan were from organized crime. This decreased to 74 percent in 1995. Like most of these countries, the Philippines could pass stricter gun control laws and enforce them without exception. Right now, the Philippines cannot adopt the general British practice of having unarmed policemen. The presence of armed policemen on foot patrol or going around the community in patrol cars could greatly help bring down the crime rate. In the meantime, a nationwide campaign has to be waged to smash armed gangs that have lately been committing robbery-killings, car thefts and kidnappings. Put pressure on the crime syndicates and deprive them of sources of guns and the opportunity to prey on people and very soon they will be out of business.