On January 1, 2021, while the world celebrated New Year's Day, a 12-year-old girl from Lanao del Norte tragically lost her life after being struck by a stray bullet while playing outside her home after midnight. Two more victims of stray bullets were reported on that day: a six-year-old from Sta. Catalina, Negros Occidental, and a male victim from Dagupan City.
These are just a handful of the numerous incidents involving stray bullets in the country. Many children and elderly individuals have already fallen victim to irresponsible individuals who abuse their ownership of firearms.
It is both disheartening and alarming that the celebration of the New Year, a time of hope and new beginnings, is marred by the dangerous and senseless act of indiscriminate firing of guns. This reckless behavior poses a threat to the safety of innocent civilians.
What is particularly concerning is the involvement of some members of the police force in such irresponsible actions, and these are the very individuals whom we entrust with the important task of maintaining peace and order within our communities. Their involvement in indiscriminate firing of guns not only violates the very laws they have sworn to uphold, but also erodes public trust and confidence in the police force.
This issue highlights the need for stricter enforcement of laws and regulations regarding the use of firearms, as well as the implementation of more stringent penalties for those who engage in such dangerous behavior. Efforts should also be made to educate the public, including law enforcement officers, about the severe consequences of indiscriminate firing of guns.
The efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to address the issue of indiscriminate firing by sealing the service firearms of its personnel may seem like a step in the right direction, but there are several flaws in this approach.
For one, the sealing of service firearms with masking tapes may not be as effective as intended. Many policemen have their personal firearms, in addition to their issued pistols, which are not subject to this sealing measure. Ergo, the indiscriminate firing problem is not fully resolved by this action.
This year the PNP is singing a new song. Perhaps, they recognized that the sealing has not eradicated indiscriminate firing.
The reasoning cited for concerns about the tapes potentially hindering the effectiveness of the guns in emergency situations seems contradictory. In my early days as a reporter, an officer explained that sealing guns with paper masking tapes would not make them ineffective, as the officers would still be able to fire them when necessary.
But, let me make it clear, the issue of indiscriminate firing during the holidays cannot solely be attributed to law enforcement officers. It is a societal issue that requires a collective effort to address and change the culture of gun ownership.
There are countless individuals who own guns, whether legally or otherwise, who freely brandish their weapons without fear of any consequences. These individuals are not held to the same standards or scrutiny as police officers, and their actions often go unnoticed and unpunished. This lack of accountability contributes to a culture of irresponsible gun ownership, where individuals feel empowered to use their firearms in reckless and dangerous ways.
Indiscriminate firing of firearms has become a serious issue. This reckless behavior not only endangers the lives of innocent people, but also ignores the safety and security of our communities. In order to address this issue, we need to change the way we implement firearm possession.
The first step in addressing indiscriminate firing is to reform our current firearms regulations. While Republic Act 10591 in the Philippines has made significant strides in regulating the ownership and possession of firearms, there is still room for improvement. Tightening the requirements for obtaining a firearm license, conducting thorough background checks, and implementing stricter penalties for violations can help reduce the incidence of indiscriminate firing.
Changing the laws alone is not enough, however. We also need to change the behavior of gun owners. Gun owners must understand that owning a firearm is not a right, but a privilege. Borrowing words from a superhero movie, with this privilege comes a great responsibility to use firearms in a safe and lawful manner. Guns should only be used to protect lives, not to take them. Education and training programs should be implemented to promote responsible gun ownership and to teach gun owners about the consequences of indiscriminate firing.
Fostering a culture of responsible gun ownership requires the active involvement of communities and law enforcement agencies. Encouraging open communication and collaboration between gun owners and law enforcement can help identify and address potential issues before they escalate. Promoting safe storage practices and encouraging the reporting of suspicious behavior can also help prevent indiscriminate firing incidents.
Responsible gun ownership should not just be an option, but a hard and fast rule for all individuals who own firearms. It is essential that gun owners understand the gravity of their responsibility and the potential consequences of their actions. This means storing firearms securely, using them only in appropriate and safe environments, and never engaging in reckless behavior such as firing weapons indiscriminately.
By holding all gun owners to a higher standard of responsibility, we can work towards creating safer communities for everyone.
Have a safe and happy celebration of the New Year!