In an article entitled ‘Armed and dangerous: more civilians own guns than military, police,’ Gemma Mendoza of Newsbreak.ph published some quite sensational statistics about weapons in the hands of civilians.
She cites cases of Gerardo Ortega, Venson Evangelista and Emerson Lozano, all who were victims of firearms-related crime. The article then goes on to quote figures about gun ownership, weapon types, and approved licenses. It was all obviously calculated to cause outrage and lead readers to the conclusion that legal firearms owners are the danger to Philippine society.
However, the article presented no strong evidence to link legal ownership as a contributing factor to crime. In line with tactics used by anti-gun advocates, all she could do was make a tenuous correlation and through a few cognitive leaps, propose that for the good of society, the best way forward is for only police and military to be armed. Inferences, suggestions and innuendo are the best they can do because, in reality, there are no links.
There can be no doubt that the Philippines has a serious problem with violent incidents leading to death and injury. So just who are the perpetrators? Who are the real dangers to society? Which groups have the established, well documented track-record of posing a danger to innocent civilians?
As a direct result of the huge numbers of journalists being harassed, detained, tortured, and killed, Reporters Without Borders ranked the Philippines 156th place out of 178 in its Press Freedom Index of 2010. Just a year before, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that the Philippines was the world’s most dangerous country for journalists, topping Iraq for the number killed on the job. As of 2007, at least 830 people have been killed in an extrajudicial fashion and Amnesty International has said that over 200 Filipinos have been victims of enforced disappearance in the past decade. The Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines estimates that we have had over 1200 political killings since 1991.
Let me ask this: were these killings perpetrated by sport shooters or the average PTCFOR holder?
Amnesty International, in their 2006 paper, Political Killings, Human Rights and the Peace Process, described attacks as, “mostly carried out by unidentified men who shoot the victims before escaping on motorcycles, have very rarely led to the arrest, prosecution and punishment of those responsible.”
It goes on to say that, “the common features in the methodology of the attacks, [has led Amnesty International to believe that] they constitute a pattern of politically targeted extrajudicial executions… The organisation remains gravely concerned at repeated credible reports that members of the security forces have been directly involved in the attacks, or else have tolerated, acquiesced to, or been complicit in them.”
In 2009, the US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices states that, “Arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by elements of the security services and political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors continued to be major problems.”
Since 2005, over 3,000 military and police personnel have been accused of human rights violations. In 2008, the Commission on Human Rights chair, Leila de Lima reprimanded the Philippine National Police for its reputation of not observing human rights, citing as examples, “the Kuratong Baleleng massacre, the Ortigas Highway Patrol rub out, and the killing of suspects in the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation robbery in Laguna.”
There is no need to beat around the bush here. We, the average armed citizens, are of no danger to society. In fact, the very groups that anti-gun advocates believe should be bestowed the exclusive privilege to carry firearms have, themselves, a traceable history of violence.
Responsible civilian firearms owners are an easy target because despite our skill in the use of a dangerous tool, we do not force our views on anyone else and are ironically quite powerless. Nevertheless, politicians and the media alike vilify us and paint us as violent, anti-social lunatics. The truth is that we are often better trained, better equipped and show more self-restraint than many of the so-called professionals. This is not to boast of our superiority but to highlight the sad state of affairs that our country faces.
The Maguindanao massacre is said to be the single worst mass killing of journalists in history. It was carried out by a political clan with the support of government security forces and officials. The deaths of innocents should not be placed at the feet of ordinary citizen firearms owners. To do so would make a mockery of those who died and trivialize the true dangers in our country.