Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gun Control

Rewrites of Jottings: Gun Control

Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law are perceived by many as evil, but even the detractors must admit that not all decrees of the authoritarian regime were bad. Quite a few were actually beneficial. One of this is gun control.
Today, there are two camps with opposing views on gun control. There are the PRO-GUN (acronym for Peaceful, Responsible Owners of Guns) advocates who are fascinated by guns and who support liberalized possession of firearms, not just to own (which restricts guns to the confines of the home), but also to carry (concealed in one’s person. The main justification for ownership is self-protection and secondarily for hunting and target shooting. Gun collecting hobby is rare, indulged by a few rabid fanciers.
Opposing the PRO-GUN camp is the “Gunless Society Movement” that campaigns for a gun less society. The group claims their goal is not total elimination of firearms in our communities, but merely urges enactment of a law that strictly restricts to regular police and military personnel, in uniform and in line of duty, the reason and permission to carry firearms in public places.
A favorite argument of gun lovers is that guns do not kill, people do. The weakness in this proposition dwells in the fact that unarmed people hardly kill, merely maim. It is the man-with-gun combine that creates the mortal factor. Removing the gun from the combination enhances chances for survival. A gun settles a disagreement before words can work, usually with irreversible finality – no appeal, no reconsideration. This lesson is tragically illustrated in the Eldon Maguan and Arnie Twadles shootings, and in the deaths of lawmen who engaged in duels to conclude their heated discussion.
Without a gun, a person in an altercation uses less lethal weapons within reach , knives, clubs, fists, or can run away to fight another day. He may even use his wits to persuade rather than antagonize.
The plan of City Elders to provide Barangay Chairmen with firearms to help contain criminality in the city can only add to the increasingly difficult burden of this official. A gun holds little promise in this objective. Instead, a gun, being an instrument of violence, will surely cause more violence.
This possibility is not so remote. The City Council just recently adjudged two disputes involving Barangay Chairmen, and both incidents were complicated by alleged threats with a gun. That no fatalities resulted in the altercations are purely lucky happenstance.
Will a gun deter a crime? To get some answers, ask the bank security guards who survived the superior firepower of bank robbers that killed their fellow guards who resisted and fought back. Or, ask the lucky chauffeurs who wisely offered no resistance to the dozen armed men riding several cars that pounced on their and boss’s car to capyure the target for ransom.
It is difficult to imagine a gun preventing fraud or a snatching, and settling domestic quarrels or halting pollution by firms is best handled with the gift of gab. Rape is abetted, not prevented, by a gun. Traffic violations? – the deed is done—a gun might just invite a challenge to a duel, potentially adding more ticks to crime statistics.
Do kids have access to their parents’ guns? A senator believes so and is filing legislation to curb negligence. Imagine the dilemma of an adult faced with a child brandishing a gun (that could be a realistic toy but could be real) in boastful frolic and then pointing the gun at people. How will the adult respond --- grab the gun and maul the child? What if the trigger is pulled and a real bullet emerges after the explosion?
This cannot be dismissed as an unlikely scenario. Two actual homicides reported were perpetrated by kids below their teens, two accidents that would not have happened had there been two less guns in circulation. The guns acquired to protect the family caused the family’s devastation.
Personally, my past membership in our college rifle and pistol team served as a sobering influence regarding firearms. Participation in team competitions further deepened my awe for the power of those devices. By the time I took my oath as an “officer and gentleman” in the AFP, my respect for firearms was unshakable and these dictums deeply engrained:
“Never, never point a gun at anyone unless you intend to shoot”;
“In jest, guns are deadly”;
“Don’t shoot in anger, it spoils your aim.” Lord Acton’s “power corrupts” statement may well have undertones that apply to ordinary people. When a tiny bit of authority is vested on a puny person, there seems to be a subtle change in personality, casting an aura of superiority and an air of arrogance that makes him or her nine feet tall. A gun certainly bestows coercive power and the “giant complex”. But many people do how to handle this ogre in themselves, the urge that would gun down a helpless Hultman teenager.
A top police officer recently cited their crime statistics, a tool normally used as an aid in strategic plans and deployment of resources, in self-defense against criticisms. This official who obviously suffers from foot-in-mouth syndrome declared that the police force needs more firepower (which raises the probability of civilians being in harms way) but seemed to lack the vision to see sophisticated needs such as forensic medicine facilities, high tech detection and database info systems or even simple computers.
If Barangay Chairmen are now issued guns, this would be highly unfortunate and should be reconsidered. It is not right to construe a gun as a badge of authority; esteem for the person and respect for the position is presumed upon election to office. No accouterment can enhance the level of esteem.
The reasonable course to take in crime prevention is to provide the agency mandated to perform this function, the police, with ample support for them to do their job: more mobility, manpower, money, motivation. management and means of communication. Thus, they can strive to earn the respect, confidence and trust of the public.

Rewrite of Jottings: Gun Control 2

December 23, 1998 Mindanao Post
When I wrote the piece about firearms awhile back, I cited a few dictums, some seemingly jocular but all in dead earnest on handling the deadly device known as a hand gun. Fatalities by lethal gunshot have since been reported involving firearms with a license to carry.
Explicitly to carry but implicitly to slay, because guns are made for that very purpose. Target shooting is just an off-shoot (no pun) and pretext for possession.
Metro Manila where ferocious people live and where lack of discipline is rampant, was recently hit with a spate of shooting incidents. Picking four of these events grimly illustrates the high costs of breaching the tenets.
Case #1 – Following an argument over parking space in a cemetery, a young mother is shot dead, her son and nephew injured. Gun wielder disclaims intent to harm. Breached: never, never, never point a gun at anyone unless you intend to shoot. Lesson – the pistol might be loaded.
Case #2 – Policeman shot in mouth by fellow policeman irked by teasing of victim. Dictum: Don’t shoot in anger, it spoils your aim. Lesson – the act speaks for itself.
Case #3 – Bar owner buying a “hot” pistol from a police officer points gun at his waiter (cadging a cigarette) on the mouth to mimic a cigarette. Gun goes off, killing the waiter. Violated: never point a gun unless you intend to shoot, and, in jest guns are deadly. Lesson – buying a gun from a policeman brings trouble. Better yet, don’t buy one.
Case #4 – Birthday celebrant killed by a gun which he and is brother-in-law were playfully fighting for possession. Breached: in jest guns are deadly. Lesson – gun owners should shun B-day whoopee.
Mega Guns
According to a gun fancier, there are 609,000 licensed firearms owners. Of these 45,000 have permits to carry. These figures presumably do not include guns issued to law enforcers: police, NBI, Land Transportation, Coast Guard, jail guards and security agencies. Summing up all legally held guns, an estimate of one million would be close. Add to these the guns slipped out of barracks occasionally by the military and you have an idea of the risks the public is exposed to. No wonder then why so many civilians are shot – jostlers, bystanders, usizeros, LTO fixers, children, not to mention the casualties during Christmas and NewYear when revelers shot a bullet into the airand fell to earth we know not where.
Screening Applicants
A major flaw of the gun-permit system is its discretionary characteristics. Despite prescription of rigid guidelines and supplemental techniques such as a psychiatry test and firing-range practice, all depend on human judgment with its inherent errors, thus making the screening process selectively reliable.
Psychiatry tests presumably probe for homicidal tendencies of an applicant but may not pinpoint accurately a prime cause of shooting incidents – the spontaneous outburst of anger that pulls the trigger. The driving force behind hostility is a cynical mistrust of others. A person who expects others to mistreat him will seldom be disappointed. This generates anger that leads to an aggressive response. The first clue to hostile behavior in a situation an be gleaned from the answer to a question, “what is your purpose in doing this?” If it is to punish the other person for what he has done, then you are prone to episodes of anger. But psychotherapists know that people conceal unpleasant thoughts about themselves. Lying is a common human trait, even Presidents have been known to lie.
In one criminal trial in the U.S. a doctor testified that the defendant was an incorrigible sociopath and would go ahead and commit similar or the same criminal acts if given the opportunity. The doctor explained that his training as a psychiatrist enabled him to reach this conclusion from a 90 minute interview with the defendant.
The American Psychiatric Association protested and in a legal brief argued tha such a testimony “gives the appearance of being based on expert medical judgment when in fact no such expertise exists.” The statement had a strong foundation.
Virtually every research study before then has shown that when it comes to long term predictions about dangerous behavior psychiatrists are wrong more often than they are right. Personality tests cannot even detect whether a person has been violent in the past, let alone predict the future. And here we are asking psychiatrists to use an imprecise science to make absolute moral judgment.
Practice firing as training of an applicant takes time and is costly. Although it can arguably improve aiming proficiency, it also can boost egos, trigger the Rambo complex and enhance his maiming ability. Yet the shooting sessions may not help his emotional stability, nervousness and tension in a confrontation.
Gun-related violence in the U.S. has reached a point where even schoolchildren are shooting schoolmates, prompting authorities to tighten gun purchases. But buying a gun there is prohibited to only two types of buyer: those with a history of violent behavior or those with money problems. The prospective buyer’s dossier is checked from police files linked nationwide.
Screening with the aid of a polygraph (lie detector) test could substitute for the psychiatry phase, but this technique has validity as low as 64% according to critical scientists and besides has a fatal weakness. Because it is based on a predetermined set of questions (the standard format known as the Control Format Test) it can be leaked much like the PRC exams for professionals and thus creating a public danger by awarding a license (perhaps to kill).
Self-Protection Rationale
A favorite rationale for gun ownership is self-protection because of police invisibility. In reality, the reasoning is full of kinks. A foe with intent to kill will surely use treachery and superior numbers or firepower to assure success. Against a similarly armed stranger, the guns could incite violence stimulated by braggadocio. But the most telling of all is the significant number of unarmed victims shot, mocking the self-protection theory.
Just recently, newspapers and cable TV networks reported the story on the Capitol shooting in Washington D.C. where two veteran policemen were killed by a man with a .38. “One was shot when the man tried to evade a metal detector. After hearing the gunfire, the other confronted the man, told him to drop the gun but was killed. He shot the man as he went down. Two cops with 36 years combined experience men with firing-range refresher courses thoroughly familiar with guns, trained to be cool and deliberate and vigilant – if these men can’t preempt the bad guy, preferably without being killed or wounded themselves, who can? So much for self-protection.
Protecting one’s home from intruders is not too difficult. But aside from the passive locks and metal grilles, the aggressive methods pose problems of cost and legality. Take for instance the installation of booby traps around the house. These untended contraptions are highly effective slayers, proven in the Vietnam war in the ‘60s and the Samar jungles of the Fil-American conflict. But the major drawback is its inability to distinguish between a kid trespassing innocently from a hard-core burglar breaking in or from a household member. There is also the knotty question of premeditation in case the intruder dies.
A gun at home is just as lethal if the owner is careless in its custody.
A surefire, absolutely effective means to control guns is by reducing the number of permits to carry, preferably from the present 45,000 to zero. If Japan, Canada, Australia and U.K. can do it, why can’t we?

Rewrite of Jottings: Gun Control 3

Packaged with the right to bear (fire) arms is the inevitable risk of shooting one’s self in the foot. I say again what I stated earlier in an article published in 2003 reproduced below.
A Deluge of Guns
22 Oct 2003 Mindanao Post
The President, in her State of the Nation Address last year, vowed to crack down on crime as part her administration’s efforts to build a "strong republic." She said crime was undermining the country’s economic recovery efforts and eventually threatening national security.
In January, upon orders from President Arroyo, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Police Director General Hermogenes Ebdane stopped issuing permits that allowed licensed gun holders to carry their weapons outside their homes in an effort to curb crime. About 30,000 permits of licensed gun holders were likewise canceled, drawing protests from gun owners.
Amazingly, Director General Hermogenes Ebdane has now allowed about 42,000 barangay chairmen nationwide to carry firearms in a bid to help curb crime but on condition that the firearms be only handguns no larger than a 9-mm. or caliber .38.
Although barangay leaders would be given permits to carry guns outside their homes, Ebdane said they would be barred from bringing guns to videoke bars and other nightspots where fights are likely to occur. Barangay kagawads ( legislators) and tanods (security men) cannot carry firearms.
Whatever happened to the policy proposal that strictly restrict to regular police and military personnel, in uniform and in line of duty the reason and permission to carry arms in public places? In early 1997, Cagayan de Oro city councilors also contemplated issuing Barangay Chairmen with firearms due to, you guessed it, rising crime. (Maybe the Kapitans were issued the guns on the hush-hush but no notable reduction of crimes was sensed.) I wrote a dissenting opinion at the time and I repeat here what I said then.
A favorite argument of those infatuated with firearms is that guns do not kill, people do. The weakness in this proposition is that unarmed people hardly kill, merely maim. A gun settles a disagreement before words can work, usually with irreversible finality as tragically illustrated in the Eldon Maguan and Ernie Tuadles shootings, and the deaths of lawmen who engaged in duels to settle their heated argument.
Without a gun, a person uses less lethal weapons such as fists, clubs, knives, or run away to fight another day. He may even use his wits to persuade rather than antagonize. Will a gun deter a crime? Bank security guards who survived the superior firepower of bank robbers that slew fellow guards who resisted and fought back can best answer the question. It is difficult to imagine a gun preventing a fraud or deterring the furtive snatch thief, and settling domestic quarrels or halting pollution by firms are best handled with the gift of gab. Traffic violations? The deed is done. A gun would just provoke a goading challenge or a duel by another gun toter. The CDO City Council at that time had to adjudge two disputes involving Barangay Chairmen in cases involving threats with a gun.
I was a member of our college rifle and pistol team, and one of my cherished mementos is a champion’s plaque that I won. This experience served as a sobering influence regarding firearms. Team competitions further deepened my awe for the power of the devices. By the time I took my oath as an “officer and a gentleman” in the AFP my respect for firearms was unshakable and these dictums deeply ingrained:
Never, never, never point a gun at anyone unless you intend to shoot.
In jest, guns are deadly.
Don’t shoot in anger it spoils your aim.
Lord Acton’s ‘power corrupts’ statement may well have undertones that apply to ordinary people. Give a puny person a tiny bit of authority and his personality changes with a feeling of superiority and self-importance. A gun provides that feeling.
Let’s hope our Kapitans are not puny.
A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. --George Bernard Shaw
The good news in October 2007, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will no longer apply for gun ban exemption from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in an effort to prevent unscrupulous policemen from acting as bodyguards of politicians. PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said policemen can carry their firearms outside their stations and houses even without gun ban exemption provided that they are wearing complete police uniform. Interior Secretary RonaldoPuno reminded all policemen that they would also be arrested for carrying guns if they are not in proper uniform.
The bad news is a road rage report in an editorial – “Two lives lost and another destroyed — that’s too steep a price for road rage. But given the utter lack of road courtesy in this country, such incidents are no longer surprising. Advocates of a gun-less society will point out that the tragedy would not have happened if Hernandez did not have a pistol in his possession at the time of the accident. Because of rampant lawlessness, however, many Filipinos are unlikely to give up their guns.
The best way to discourage the use of guns for offensive purposes is by showing the public that incidents such as the one in Pasig do not go unpunished. Based on police accounts, Hernandez was within his right to defend himself from what appeared to have been a violent assault. But he went overboard, shooting to kill rather than scare or disable, and not just one but two people. Did he have a permit to carry a gun outside his home?"
A gun settles a disagreement before words can work, usually with irreversible finality – no appeal, no reconsideration.

No comments: