Home News Philippines Girl's Death Triggers Gun Debate in the Philippines

Girl's Death Triggers Gun Debate in the Philippines

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Download A six month ban on carrying guns in public has begun in the Philippines ahead of elections in May.

But fresh calls for stricter gun control sparked after recent shooting incidents.

On New Year’s Eve, 7-year old Stephanie Nicole Ella, was hit by a bullet in Caloocan City.

Two more children have been killed in separate shootings during the first few days of January.

With more than 600 thousand unlicensed firearms across the country, many demand a total gun ban.

Madonna Virola has more from Manila.

In the crowded village of Tala in Caloocan City, I meet 33-year old Elaine Ella.

On the walls there are posters condemning the shooting of her 7-year old daughter, Nicole.

“We’re still grieveing the loss of our child. We thank those who support us, even if they didn’t know Nicole. God must have a reason for her loss. The senseless killings must stop. We appeal to the person who shot my child, to come out and face up to their crime.”

Nicole was watching the New Year fireworks with her relatives outside her house when she was hit in the left side of her head by a stray bullet.

Police officials are still trying to find out whether or not the gun belonged to one of the gun owners in the neighbourhood.

Marilyn Laureno is the principal at Nicole’s elementary school.

She says Nicole was a star pupil who dreamed of becoming a teacher.

She fears there will be more deadly incidents similar to the one that killed Nicole.

“On the first day of school, our security guard was able to discover  two slugs in front of our shop building. That means it’s not only Nicole’s incident, but there were other people who fired their guns indiscriminately in the New Year’s Eve and that endangered lives. How about if there were people here in the school? Other schools within the vicinity have also discovered slugs.”

On New Year’s Eve, 4-year old Ranjilo Nemer was also shot by a drunken man with a homemade shotgun.

A few days later, 2 girls and a pregnant woman were shot by a drug-crazed gunman holding a semi-automatic pistol. At least 10 others were wounded.

The Gunless Society of the Philippines says it’s had enough of all the violence. Nandy Pacheco is its president.

"I think it's the culture; the culture of guns... the culture of violence that is being promoted by the government itself. Why do I say that? Gun exhibits that take place every 3 months, selling off guns in stores, allowing people to carry firearms.”

According to the police, there are more than 1.2 million registered firearms in the country, and more than 600 thousand unlicensed guns in circulation.

Ernesto Tabujara from PROGUN, the country’s main firearms advocacy group, argues that the problem lies with the illegal weapons.

“According to the statistics of the Police, 99.9 per cent of crimes committed using firearms in the Philippines are committed with unlicensed or loose firearms. Less than 1 percent of crimes are committed with licensed firearms. The problem are actually loose and unregistered firearms. However, we’re also not shirking from our social responsibility to the public to educate gun owners in the proper, responsible and legitimate, and honest use of firearms.”

Last year, the House of Representatives passed the final reading of the Comprehensive Firearms Bill that would allow only members of the police and the military to be armed in public.

The proposed law has not yet been adopted.

President Benigno Aquino, a gun enthusiast himself, has rejected the idea of a total gun ban.

He said the best solution was to get rid of the unlicensed weapons, while allowing law-abiding citizens to carry weapons for self-defense.

PROGUN’s Ernesto believes that it will take more than a gun ban to stop people from getting shot.

“As a lawyer, I can say that it is really inefficiency of our government, corruption is also a problem, and the culture of being able to bribe your way through anything in this country especially the justice system. It creates a culture of impunity which was brought up during this time when journalists are killed when nobody was being held accountable. There is no fear on the part of criminal that he will be caught or convicted of any offense.”

Back in Caloocan City, Nicole’s 10-year old neighbour Apple, hopes to play outside without fear of getting shot.

“I am sad because people are dying.  Nicole was just watching the fireworks then suddenly she was shot dead.”


Last Updated ( Saturday, 19 January 2013 13:18 )  

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