New Year death of young girl sparks gun ownership debate in Philippines

Featured - January 4th, 2013
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The death of a seven year old girl hit by a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve in the Philippines sparked public anger over the country’s poor law enforcement on gun control, with weak laws meaning hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms are on the streets.

Stephanie Ella died Wednesday, two days after bullets from celebratory gunfire struck her in the head while she was watching a fireworks display with her father outside their home in Manila. Doctors struggled to save her life, after she suffered a series of cardiac arrests, before pronouncing her dead, according to the official Philippines News Agency.

Ella was the second young victim among recent fatalities from celebratory gunfire which have been highlighted, triggering outrage over deaths from loose firearms and calls for stricter gun controls, AFP reports.

“This incident should not be allowed to become just another statistic,” Vice President Jejomar Binay said in a statement. “We have enough laws to penalise but the problem has always been in the enforcement of laws.”

Police claimed they have arrested 18 people, but none of them is accused of firing the gun that killed the little girl, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Anti-firearm advocates called for a “total gun ban during the holidays” but also claimed that the bigger problem lies in the failure of authorities to seize illegal firearms and issuing stricter firearm permits, such as ensuring people are mentally qualified to possess them.

There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines as of last year, with roughly 600,000 unlicensed weapons, according to data from the police firearms and explosives office.