CHR chief unconvinced of gun ban

June 7, 2010, 4:12pm

The country’s human rights watchdog is not convinced that a gun ban would solve the problem of the proliferation of firearms.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairwoman Leila M. de Lima told participants of the National Firearms Control Program Consultative Summit at Camp Crame last Friday that the commission “supports the proposition that the current gun ban should be extended, but only to the extent that it paves the way towards a radical change in the enforcement of gun control.”

She said: “On one hand, a total gun ban smacks of slackness on the part of law enforcement agencies to carry out the existing laws on firearms control. Totally banning guns is an over-simplified solution to addressing the proliferation of firearms. It goes well beyond the scope of existing government regulation on gun ownership and use.”

The issue also covers areas where firearms are used with impunity for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, clan warfare and even for repression of political adversaries.

De Lima said what is needed is for the Philippine National Police (PNP), government and concerned parties in general to “consider a more balanced and thoughtfully designed plan curbing gun-related crimes.”

While CHR respects gun ownership, the right of all citizens to security of their life and property must be protected, De Lima said.

She argued that the right to bear arms is not a fundamental right in the country since the Supreme Court has already ruled that gun possession is an exception rather than the rule and that it is a “mere privilege, not a constitutional right.”

No such right is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

This being the case, “the right to bear arms cannot be considered as absolute as to be placed beyond the reach of the State’s police power. All property in the state is held subject to its general regulations, necessary to the common good and general welfare.”

Public interest requires the application of police power but the employment of this power requires that it not be unduly oppressive upon individuals.

“The question now is whether rash criminality and human rights violations can be curbed by enforcing a gun ban, particularly when and where it is needed. This is particularly essential in places where extralegal killings, enforced disappearance and torture are rampant,” De Lima said.

“There must be serious efforts to disarm and dismantle private armies. Governments must support communities in eliminating the insecurity, fear and instability that often lead people to acquire and keep guns. If this requires a limited gun ban in these areas, then the ban should continue as to these places,” she added.

“Be that as it may, the CHR does not consider a total gun ban reasonable or feasible. Effective control is still the key, and this includes not only enforcing existing regulations on gun control, but the enforcement of gun control checkpoints as in the case of the Election Gun Ban,” De Lima said.

“We propose that the gun ban should be extended only for the purpose of transitioning into a stronger policy of effective gun control. Gun control naturally must include many other operations, such as intercepting illegal shipments of high-powered firearms, confiscation of unregistered guns, dismantling of private armies and many more. But the gun ban, as currently enforced, provides a key ingredient as well to gun control,” the CHR chief stressed.

“We agree with pro-gun advocates that persons who legitimately own guns and who are permitted to transport the same eventually should not be prevented from doing so. We only ask that the proponents to the gun ban carry out the necessary preparations in enforcing checkpoints once the Election Gun Ban ceases and new gun control mechanisms are in place, such as issuing the essential guidelines for inquiring into the possession of firearms from motorists and other persons in transit, and the procedure in checking for permits and licenses,” De Lima said.

Copyright 2010. Manila Bulletin

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