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Shootings prompt calls for stronger gun control

Church leaders urge government response after several deaths reporter, Manila

January 7, 2013

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A mass shooting which led to the deaths of eight people with a further 12 injured on Friday has led to renewed calls by Church leaders and some politicians for tighter restrictions on firearms.

On Friday, Ronald Bae took a pistol and went on a rampage in Kawit town in Cavite province just four days after a seven-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet during New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Manila suburb of Caloocan.

"It is high time that we enact bold and encompassing gun control reforms in this country," Senator Loren Legarda said in a statement after the Cavite shootings.

At least 40 people were reportedly hit by wayward bullets in the Philippines during the holiday period, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Yesterday, police shot and killed 13 suspected members of a criminal gang in Quezon province, later accusing the group of opening fire first from two sports utility vehicles at a police and army checkpoint. The Commission on Human Rights said today it would look into the killings. 

Legarda noted that recent gun-related violence has hit many countries, not just the Philippines.

"Aspiring to a gunless society is a step towards achieving genuine peace," she said.

Following the Friday shootings in Kawit, just 19 kilometers outside Manila, John Paul Lopez turned himself in to police following witness reports he had helped reload Bae's gun, a .45 caliber pistol. He later tested positive for methamphetamines.

Bae, who was shot dead by police during the shoot-out, left Kawit in 2010 after losing a local election for village chief.

"We thought these things happened only in [the United States], now it’s starting to happen here," said Bishop Gabriel Reyes of Antipolo.

Admitting that it was “very hard” to decide the best course of action in response, he argued that there should be stricter gun controls, a position followed by Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu who said the government should study the issue carefully.

"There may be some people who may be allowed in some circumstances.... We have to consider also what others say about the right to protect themselves,” he said.

Other church leaders have been more explicit in calling a government response.

“We support a total gun ban,” said Bishop Jose Oliveros of Malolos. “We proclaim the Gospel of life vis-a-vis the culture of death."

The presidential palace said proposals by various groups are still to be discussed with President Benigno Aquino.

Meanwhile, the election commission yesterday issued a notice reminding gun owners to leave their firearms at home from Sunday ahead of a gun ban in place for May elections.

Only law enforcement agents in uniform and on duty will be permitted by law to carry firearms outside of their residences during this election period.

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