[UPDATE: The 2009 Defense and Sporting Arms Show will be held from July 16-20, 2009 and November 12-16, 2009, both at the SM MegaTrade Hall - Ed.]
I’ve always maintained that of all the consumer fairs organized in the Philippines, the three most popular are (in no particular order) those that deal with books, cars, and guns. Last week, I attended a show organized by the country’s Association of Firearms Dealers (AFAD) and after paying a PHP 60 fee, I gained admission to see what its members had to offer.
For those of you who believe that the Philippines’ strong gun culture was a direct result of the American influence during their colonial period, the answer is no. For starters, the United States never extended the benefits of the Second Amendment to the Islands for obvious reasons – we had just wrested from Spain our right to become an independent republic when we were “benevolently assimilated” by the Yanks.
Whatever the reason, Filipinos in the Philippines or abroad are fond of their guns, whether for sport or personal defense, to the consternation of many in the “politically correct” press. As an American writer once admiringly put it, the only way to truly confiscate fireams from hardy Filipinos is to rip out the very plumbing systems of their homes!
I get the impression that compared to other southeast Asian countries that allow gun ownership, like Malaysia and Thailand, the Philippines has fairly liberal gun ownership laws. For as long as an applicant hurdles an extensive background check, consisting of obtaining clearances from local law-enforcement authorities and from the local courts, passing a drug and psychiatric test, as well as attending a gun safety course, not to mention submitting proof of employment or income and the payment of fees, a Filipino is authorized to own a gun.
Concealed carry, on the other hand, is far, far more restrictive, and is solely at the discretion of the police. In Philippine official legalese, such a license is called a Permit To Carry Firearm Outside Residence (PTCFOR).
It takes the better part of a month for the law-abiding citizen to obtain his firearms license and gain possession of his gun.
Filipino citizens are generally authorized by law to own one handgun (up to .38 Special/9 x 19 mm/.40 ACP) and one shotgun (up to 12-gauge but without a minimum barrel length I think) or small-caliber rifle (.22 Long Rifle or .22 WMR like the Marlin bolt-action rifles in the photo above). That number or caliber can increase if proof of gun club membership is exhibited, but take note that licenses are issued on a per-firearm basis, so complying with the law can become expensive very quickly.
Plenty of submachine guns and assault rifles were also on display but for those of who want to know if a civilian Joe Schmo can legitimately own one? The law seems to be murky on this one. In general, full-auto weapons sales are restricted to local government, police, and military organizations. There is, however, a very generous Estrada-era executive order that authorizes civilians to own any firearm of any caliber, semiauto or full, except for light machineguns, crew-served weapons, and similar small arms. I am not aware if this order was subsequently and explicitly rescinded by his successor.
Besides, these full-auto babies are quite expensive. One vendor at the gun show was retailing a H&K MP5K for a little less than PHP 300,000! These made-in-China AK-47’s pictured above were a bargain at PHP 45,000 each; no wonder they sold out so quickly.