Press Release
November 11, 2019

SBN 1155: Amending the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
11 November 2019

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

I would like to begin with a confession: I am a gun owner.

This is so because the Rectos are a family of shooting athletes who fought under the flag and brought home medals.

My father was many times a Philippine champion and was an Olympian. Two of my brothers also made it to the national team, with Ricky even winning gold in the Southeast Asian Games.

The family lore is that Ricky is the trapshooter, my dad was the sharpshooter, and Don Claro was the straightshooter.

But in terms of accuracy, precision and speed, none of them can beat me--in shooting from the hip.

So in keeping with the Recto tradition, I keep a collection of guns, some of which are family heirlooms, the most lethal of which I keep under lock and key from the clear and present danger who is my wife.

But I believe that my being a shooting sportsman does not compel me to abstain from sponsoring this bill--but on the contrary, advocate for it.

What this bill addresses are the challenges which I, like the rest of the responsible gun owners - from the small hardware owner in a street favored by armed riding-in-tandems, to the wife of an OFW who lives with her small children in an ungated village unpatrolled by the police, to the travelling countryside salesman, to the rancher in a remote homestead - have personally experienced in securing gun licenses.

But before any of you here, in fire-aim-ready fashion, would shoot from the hip, and knee-cap this bill because of the mistaken notion that this bill makes it easy for anyone to acquire guns, let me state it up front that this bill does not make easy for anyone to own a gun.

On the contrary, it retains all the hurdles in buying one.

It does not shortcut the process, nor shorten the list of requirements. The present battery of tests remains.

The current police, medical, judicial clearances stay. Not one of the seminars will be scrapped. None of the documentary requirements, including tax returns from certain type of applicants, will be discarded.

In other words, it does not lower the bar for gun ownership, or to use a shooting lingo, enlarge the target that even a blind man can hit.

This bill preserves existing gun controls which I fully subscribe to - even if as a gun holder, saying it makes me sound like a chicken rooting for Mang Inasal.

So what does this bill seek to do, Mr. President?

It seeks to streamline and harmonize gun permit and licensing schedules because the current system is so disjointed that tens of thousands of gun owners, fatigued by the ordeal of securing permits, have opted not to renew theirs.

At present, for every gun a person owns, he has to secure up to three permits from the Philippine National Police.

First is the firearm registration which must be renewed every four years. The second is the License to Own and Possess Firearms which must be renewed every two years.

And the third, if one has applied for and qualified for it, is the Permit to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence or Place of Business, which must be renewed annually.

In almost all cases, these permits expire and thus must be renewed on different dates. So if one has two guns, he has to go through 14 separate applications in 4 years.

In order to simplify matters, this bill proposes to bundle all these applications under one filing date: the birthday of the applicant or the licensee, the same rule that applies for a driver's license.

Ibig sabihin, imbes na iba't ibang araw, gawing sa kaarawan na lang ng may-ari ng baril ang takdang araw sa pagkuha ng lisenya sa pagmamay-ari nito.

And, instead of different expiry dates - 4 years for registration, 1 year for the permit to carry, 2 years for the license to own - this bill seeks to grant the registration and license to own a uniform validity of 5 years, while the permit to carry a validity of 2 years.

Synchronizing the application period will not, however, leave the government shortchanged. By and large, current fees will be retained. So there will be no loss of income on the part of government.

Extending the validity of the permits does not also deny the government the chance to flag errant permit to carry holders every year.

Because gun ownership remains a privilege and not a right, the license can be revoked for cause anytime. The permit to own or carry a gun is not an irrevocable franchise.

What is true, Mr. President, is that having different licensing schedules, more than the clearances required, have forced many owners to opt out of renewing their gun licenses.

By PNP's count, close to 500,000 registered gun owners were without valid licenses to own firearms by the second quarter of 2015, and one of the culprits cited was the different application schedules.

This only proves, my dear colleagues, the observation that when regulations are hard to comply with, we force people to disobey them. Indeed, whether they are for guns or for taxes, simplifying rules is the best way to ensure compliance.

Mr. President:

Although the evening news and the morning papers paint a country hemorrhaging from gun violence, facts show that these are not caused by licensed civilian-owned firearms.

The truth is, there are more unlicensed firearms than licensed ones today. There are 1.2 million registered firearms, of which close to 540,000 are in civilian hands.

But this figure is eclipsed by the number of illicit firearms, which is estimated to be 2.4 million.

While by group, registered civilian gun owners account for the most number of guns, they are responsible for the least number of deaths, in fact too miniscule to count.

Licensed civilian gun owners did not forcibly occupy Marawi, nor are they behind the still-booming kidnap-for-ransom business in the South.

They do not commit EJKs, nor do they moonlight as grab riders, meaning armed riding-in-tandems who grab bags.

Licensed civilian gun owners do not compose the world's oldest rural insurgent army, nor do they make up the ranks of separatists fighting for self-rule who now want to end it in exchange for block grants.

Rather, they are law-abiding citizens who own guns either for sport or self-protection, they who do not endanger other people's lives but whose own lives are in danger.

And we cannot blame them, if out of desperation some of them are keeping a gun in their homes, as the last line of defense during these perilous times when police are hard to summon or when they finally come, they crawl in glacial pace.

It is in their behalf that this bill is being sponsored.

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