by Lei Marie Danielle M. Tolentino | October 15, 2021
I was 17 years old when I fired a gun for the first time. While that may seem young to some people, other kids like my siblings started before they even reached the age of 10. Because of our father’s occupation, we grew up being exposed to firearms and knowing how to handle them. However, my upbringing also made me realize that getting access to a gun in the Philippines is concerningly easier than it seems. Hence, our regulations for this should be strengthened.
First off, most of the unsolved homicide cases we sadly had to witness as a community are gun-related. While our city has come a long way with surveillance through the installation of CCTV cameras on our busiest streets, the use of accessories such as helmets, glasses, and masks make it extremely difficult to identify suspects through video footage. Additionally, the gunmen involved in these incidents are usually on motorbikes, making it easy for them to rush to camera blindspots and escape eye-witnesses. However, if we were to toughen up our processes to manage illegally owned firearms, tracing through the identification of bullets and firearms can greatly increase the chances of apprehending these perpetrators—finally serving justice to the victims and closure for their families.
Next, as I was personally applying to get my License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF), I noticed a potential flaw in the system that makes it easy for unfit persons to get their hands on a weapon, and that is the neuro-psychiatric exam. This merely requires an interview and written test that could be answered with dishonesty. Now, I want to make this clear: I do not blame the authorities for the fact that mental conditions are diagnosed in a much more subjective manner, unlike physical ones. However, they also must acknowledge these gaps so they can make wiser decisions as to who can be granted the privilege of holding this license.
At this point, you may be thinking, “In this dangerous world, I have a right to feel safe. So, if the government cannot protect me, I should be allowed to bear arms.” And as someone who is short-statured and female, I understand this point and personally know what it is like to feel vulnerable. However, while it is within everyone’s rights to feel safe, our living together also means the safety of the entire community is just as crucial. On top of that, while safety is a right, owning and possessing firearms is not. Similar to driver’s licenses, the LTOPF is a privilege. If you would not grant a driver’s license to someone who would be a hazard to the public, why should you do the same to the firearm license?
With the current system, it is easy for unfit people to find workarounds to gain access to these weapons. And the most demented part is that bullets, like the 22 caliber one, can be sold for the cheap amount of only five pesos. While this bullet may save a life during emergencies, it can also take an innocent one for that mere price. So, let us fight for our gun regulations to be reinforced. Our lives are worth so much more than five pesos.