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Proposed law on stiffer penalties vs irresponsible use of firearms gets unanimous support in Senate panel

BILLS SEEKING to implement stiffer penalties against indiscriminate firing received unanimous support during a Wednesday committee hearing at the Senate, with suggestions to improve the proposed law.

The Public Order and Dangerous Drugs committee discussed Senate Bill 1531 and House Bill 6123, which will amend Republic Act 10591, the law that regulates ownership and possession of all kinds of firearms and ammunition.

“Despite laws penalizing illegal discharge of firearms, many are still not deterred in using their guns aimlessly and arbitrarily,” Senator Ronald M. Dela Rosa, who chairs the committee, said during the hearing, noting innocent citizens killed by stray bullets.

Senator Francis N. Tolentino was among those who put forward suggested revisions in the draft bills, particularly a clarification on the term “discharge of firearms,” and specifying the scope of “devices” to include any that may cause harm to others such as mini-drones.

The Association of the Firearms and Ammunition Dealers (AFAD) of the Philippines recommended that the term “device” refer to “anything that may not have been designed as a firearm but has been functionally adapted and used as a firearm at the time of the offense.”

They added that the definition of the device should be inserted in the law itself.

The Philippine National Police said higher penalties should be imposed on lighter weapons in comparison to small arms, and different fines on whether the firearm used is licensed or unlicensed.

The National Range Officers Institute, for its part, suggested a more definitive term than a firearm license. “Instead of a firearm license, license to possess or own the firearm and the firearm registration or permit be canceled.”

The proposed bill seeks to impose a penalty for indiscriminate firing of six years imprisonment, and 12 years if the firing results in the death of a victim.

“Gun ownership and possession in our jurisdiction is not a right but a mere privilege,” said Mr. Dela Rosa, a former police chief.

“While owning a gun gives you the power to protect yourself from any harm or aggression, this carries with it huge and serious responsibility.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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