Wednesday, 09 January 2013 16:48
MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino insisted on Wednesday that civilians had the right to carry guns for self-defence, after a series of deadly shootings prompted calls for a total firearms ban.
"'Total gun ban' would be a nice headline, but a knee-jerk reaction. It's not in my nature to humour people. We should look for means to really solve the issue," Aquino told reporters.
Some politicians, media groups and influential Catholic church leaders have led calls for stricter gun laws, or an outright ban on civilians owning them, after a series of shootings starting on New Year's Eve left 23 people dead.
Two children died from bullet wounds amid gunfire from revellers who were welcoming in the New Year by firing weapons, a traditional form of celebration in the Philippines.
A few days later a drugs-crazed gunman shot dead seven people during a 30-minute rampage in a slum neighbourhood on the outskirts of Manila, before police killed him.
Security forces shot another 13 people dead on Sunday in a case that has embarrassed the government and highlighted major corruption problems in the police and military.
Police initially said those killed were gang members but later admitted three of the dead were fellow policemen and another two were soldiers.
Aquino launched an investigation on Tuesday into the killings amid allegations they were part of a turf war over illegal gambling involving corrupt security forces.
The violence has highlighted concerns in the Philippines over the ease with which people can acquire weapons.
There were 1.2 million registered guns in civilian hands last year, plus another 600,000 unlicensed firearms in circulation, according to police data.
Aquino said Wednesday the solution to ending the gun violence was to get rid of the unlicensed weapons while allowing law-abiding people to carry a weapon in self-defence.
"I lead by example by conforming to the law.... and both my church and the law recognise my right to self-defence," said Aquino, who is a well-known sports shooting enthusiast.
Aquino cited as reasons for owning a gun his own experience in 1987 when he was shot and wounded in an ambush by renegade troops mounting a coup against his late mother Corazon Aquino, who was then president.
He also insisted his government was already doing a lot to address gun violence, particularly by trying to take weapons away from so-called private armies that are run by local politicians around the country.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2013