Bullet Points: The Letter of the Law

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I believe that the responsible, law abiding citizen should be allowed to carry and use a firearm for protection. Now, I am neither a legal scholar nor a member of the police force, so it isn’t up to me to screen which individuals those are, but it seems, in my mind, that it would be disheartening to the bad guys to even know that ordinary civilians could be armed. Owning a firearm in the Philippines isn’t exactly difficult per se, but all the wiggle room the law-or rather, the execution of the law-along with a lot of ambiguous terms make owning and carrying firearms for self-defense difficult. RA 10591, otherwise known as “The Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act” is the latest legislative step to bring better order and control to firearms ownership here in the Philippines. Now, whether or not anyone agrees with it, this is what we have to work with. Having said that, at the very least, read the law for yourself. It’s the first step in learning what you can and can’t do. There is also only room for the salient points that have relevance to the average civvy. This is a rough guide at best. You have been warned.

WHAT IS A FIREARM?

This is an odd question, but something that has to be addressed. RA 10591 defines a firearm (F.A.) as a portable weapon that “expels or is designed to expel a bullet, shot, slug, missile or any projectile, which is discharged by means of expansive force of gases from burning gunpowder or other form of combustion or any similar instrument or implement” So, projectile from expansive gasses due to burning or an explosion is the key element here.

It is also important to note here that the barrel, receiver, or frame is considered a firearm.

While the definition of “firearm” here is clear, there is also mention of “imitation firearms,” which is a little vague, but basically covers pieces that look close enough to real firearms so as to lead a reasonable citizen to believe that it’s an actual F.A. If you use an imitation firearm to commit a crime, It will be considered a real firearm. It Is careful to make clear, though, that injuries caused by imitation firearms while engaging in sports or recreational activities that require their use don’t fall under this act.

The act also goes on to define different classes of F.A. Light weapons, for the purposes of the law, are split into two types, of which only one is really useful to us. Class-A light weapons are “weapons which refer to self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, submachine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns not exceeding caliber 7.62mm, which have fully automatic mode.”

It goes on to further define the “small arms” subtype of the “light weapon” type. These are firearms made for use by one person, whether fired from the hand or shoulder that cannot fire full-auto. This includes auto pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns, in their different shapes and forms.  Small arms are the only type of firearm civilians can legally own. Non-small arms Type-A light weapons can no longer be acquired and owned by civilians. If you already own one, though, you can still keep It, provided you follow all the registration and licensing requirements for the same. Civilians are required to register all their firearms with the PNP.

FIREARM OWNERSHIP

To condense this part heavily, you must be a Filipino citizen, 21 years old and above, and employed. You must also not have been convicted of a crime, or be accused of a crime punishable by more than two years. This is on top of all the other licensing requirements such as the psych exam, drug test, and the like. If you meet those criteria, then you can apply for a license to own and possess a firearm. Obtaining a license to carry said firearm outside your place of residence is another matter altogether. Permits to own allow one to keep firearms at the registered locations, such as the home or place of business, but if you want to carry It on your person, outside these places, you will need a permit to carry. And no, the car is not an extension of the home, as specified by the terms of the license. Yes, I understand that there Is legal precedent saying that the vehicle is an extension of the home, but the PNP has stated in the past that this is not the case when it comes to F.A. ownership, and there Is no reason to believe that they will change things when 10591 rolls around.

RA 10591 goes out of Its way to specify that should you want to take your firearm to a range or competition, you must apply for a permit to transport said firearm to the necessary location.

Members of the Philippine Bar, CPAs, accredited media practitioners, cashiers and bank tellers, priests, ministers, rabbi or imams, doctors and nurses, engineers, and businessmen who are at risk of being targeted by criminal elements are all eligible to be issued a permit to carry. If you aren’t any of those, then you have to prove that your life is under actual threat by submitting a threat assessment certificate issued by the PNP.

Licenses must be renewed every two years, and firearms registrations require renewal every four. Failure to renew the former on or before it lapses will cause the revocation of both the license and the registration of the firearm under that license. Failure to renew the latter causes the registration to be revoked with the firearm going to the government after due process. Furthermore, If you fall to renew either on two occasions means you won’t ever get to get a license again. On top of that, since the registration will have been revoked if it lapses, the firearm will technically be treated as a loose firearm. Following this cascade logically, this means you could snag on an illegal possession charge as well.

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TYPES OF LICENSES

Given that all you are looking to own are legitimately acquired small arms, there are now different licenses that vary depending on the number of firearms you intend to own. A Type 1 license allows you to own up to two registered firearms, a Type 2 lets you keep up to five, Type 3 lets you have up to ten, a Type 4 lets you have up to fifteen and the Type 5, which is a special license granted to certified gun collector, allows one to have more than fifteen. All types require a safe, lockable container in which to keep the weapon, and other special requirements govern the last two.

The licenses also grant the F.A. owner to possess a maximum of 50 rounds of ammo per firearm. The PNP can grant special licenses for sports shooters allowing them to have more than the allotted 50.

OTHER THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND

If you get caught breaking the law, and firearms are involved, things are going to get way worse for you if you also do a few things to the firearm.

A suppressor, a loaded magazine in the weapon, a scope or any sort of optics, a spare barrel, or a conversion to enable full-auto fire can all cause the penalty to increase by one degree.

Possession of ammo, or even any of the major parts such as the barrel, slide, frame, receiver, cylinder or the bolt assembly, or full-auto conversion kits, can also get you locked up.

There’s so much that still needs to be covered regarding RA 10591, and very little space with which to do it.These are what I believe to be the more important points, but it hardly covers everything. On top of this, there is a matter of the PNP’sImplementing Rules and Regulations — the muscle behind the law— to worry about. Take the time to look over it yourself. It might not be the most interesting of reads, but it is a pressing issue, and one that will affect you deeply.

First published in Gadgets Magazine, October 2013

Words by Ren Alcantara