The Philippines is home to nearly 3.9 million guns – legal and illegal, according to the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health in Australia. The number, which the University says is alarmingly high, could be on the increase due to steady demand for the weapons and the presence of back-alley manufacturers.
The Philippines imposes a ban on the carrying of guns for six months in the run up to elections, around the time of which violence is common. However, Filipinos often find it easy to find illegal gunsmiths. Despite the high gun-crime rates, many people push for liberal gun laws in the hope that they would boost production in the growing industry and help crackdown on illegal manufacturers.
Dismantling an industry that became a source of income for many generations will be problematic. Factory owner Romulo de Leon III told Reuters that his factory produces about 20,000 guns a year, with 85% exported abroad. De Leon is the second largest gun manufacturer in the Philippines. Exports amount to $23.4 million between 2000-11.
“What we want is a more balanced gun legislation, not too restrictive, but we also understand that guns must be regulated,” Armscor head Demetrio Tuason, the largest and oldest manufacturer in the Philippines. Nandy Pacheco of the Gunless Society group, referring to recent fatal shootings in Colorado, told Reuters: “Our gun laws are encouraging a culture of guns, a culture of violence. When do we act? Are we waiting for a similar attack to happen here in our movie houses?”.