Greeting New Year with a bang
EXACTLY two years ago, Philippine Daily Inquirer had a scoop of sorts when they headlined a photo of a family posing for their annual New Year's eve. A typical photo you might say. But at the back is an "extra" or a photobomb, as the young people would term it now, a person or an animal who spoiled the whole shot. This photobomb in this picture is caught aiming his gun at the photographer. He killed him but he, too, was caught because of the photo, which eventually became an Internet sensation.
This New Year, Inquirer again had a photo scoop. Their Thursday issue had a photo of cousins again posing for their New Year's Eve shot. A typical photo you might say. But moments later, seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole, seen in the picture in an all-pink outfit, would be hit by a stray bullet. She eventually died days later. Her classmates last Friday staged a picket.
This would find parallel in the shooting of 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut a month ago. The traumatized pupils of Sandy Hook Primary School also returned to school last Wednesday, although they all transferred to a nearby school.
United States may have a very high death rate due to gun injuries. The Center for Disease Control said that in 2011, there were about 32,000 deaths due to gun injuries. The figure was almost the same in the past five years before that.
In 2011, most of the cases (about 20,000) were suicide while a little more than 11,000 were homicide-related.
We are nowhere near the US gun injuries rate, partly because "strict" gun ownership and laws but we seem to be as irresponsible when it comes to gun ownership. And we bare this irresponsibility so brazenly during the New Year revelries.
There were about 50 cases of killing or wounding by stray bullets in the Philippines at the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.
In the Cordillera, we had two such cases. In Lagangilang, Abra, a 19-year-old girl was wounded on the right leg after being hit by a bullet in December 29. In Dagupan, Tabuk City, a 13-year-old boy was wounded in the left forearm last January 1.
These two teenagers were lucky in a way. Moving a few inches would have cost them their lives.
Many will argue that Abra and Tabuk City have gun culture, distinct in their places. Having a gun is part of their identity, they would say, and no matter how many gun surrenders were made, they would still get guns.
But this should not be used as an excuse in firing indiscriminately, with or without Holidays.
Even the US is now scrambling for a more strict and restrictive gun ownership law, even if the right to bear arms is part of their Constitution. They have now closely monitored the sale of guns and the background checking of the buyers.
In the Philippines, we have no definite figures on gun injuries much more on the ownership of guns. We do not know the number of guns being peddled around and who are holding them. Gun running and the paltik industry are very lucrative businesses here in the Philippines.
And because of the lack of database and monitoring, we are left in the shadows about gun responsibility. The deaths during New Year is just a (bullet)tip of the iceberg.