Congress should pass tighter legislation on proper possession of firearms

By Mario Casayuran

The Senate and the House of Representatives must pass tighter legislation against firearms in the upcoming 18th Congress, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said Wednesday.

Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, said a string of recent shootings, including the killing of a policeman along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) on March 26, should prompt an immediate change in the public mindset regarding the possession and carrying of firearms outside residences.

Senator Panfilo Lacson (Candice Reyes / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

As former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief from 1988 to 2001, Lacson said the killing of Police Senior Master Sergeant Solomon Cugay showed that gunmen can act with impunity because of loose firearm laws, as well as the public mindset that people with firearms in civilian attire are lawmen.

‘’At present, when we see persons in civilian attire with firearms bulging from their waists, we just assume they are police or military personnel. It should be the other way around. If we see someone in civilian attire and with a firearm, we should instinctively assume the person is up to no good, and report him or her to the nearest police station,” he pointed out.

“Every day, we hear of someone being gunned down by motorcycle-riding assailants. A policeman is the latest victim in a growing list that includes politicians, traders and even lawyers,” he added.

He recalled that when he headed the PNP, he limited the issuance of Permits to Carry Firearms Outside Residence (PTCFORs), with the end in view of making sure that only uniformed police and military personnel, who are on duty, can carry firearms outside their homes.

Lacson noted that in other territories like Hong Kong, people automatically report to police those they detect firearms being carried by persons in civilian clothes.

“Firearms are for self-defense against intruders and should be kept at home. Once one brings it outside your house, chances are the owner’s mindset can change and he or she can use it for offense,” he stressed.

On the other hand, Lacson said the spate of killings should also be a challenge to the PNP to show that they are capable of protecting the public from criminals.

“Some gun owners’ groups have argued they have no choice but to bring their guns outside their houses because the police cannot protect them. This should be a challenge to the PNP, to show they can protect the public,” he said.

He also said it was high time the PNP tightens the issuance of PTCFORs, following reports that even criminals who just change their names can get such permits.

He noted that New Zealand, for one, is already considering tighter legislation on gun ownership following a mass shooting there last March 15.

“We cannot allow a situation that allows mass shootings like in other countries. Neither can we afford the present situation where the country becomes the wild, wild west,” he said.