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Foreigner + Gun = Prison. It’s really quite simple.

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Handguns are made for killin’, ain’t good for nothin’ else…♫Lynyrd Skynyrd

Around five years ago, I accompanied a group of colleagues from Singapore to a trade show (OTC – The huge oil industry extravaganza) in Houston. Since many in the group had never been to the USA before, and as I was their American host, I showed them around the city, and we ended up in a large outlet mall for some shopping. What was the highlight of their trip? In this particular mall, there was a Bass Pro Shops outlet, and a very large one, at that (Probably one of the company’s “flagship” stores). The group went inside and immediately went to the guns and shooting department…

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Where they stood, fascinated and dumbstruck, looking at the huge array of guns available (I would guess, perhaps 500 models on display). The fascination was understandable. Even though the men in the group had all handled firearms in their lives (as part of Singapore’s National Service), they had never seen so many weapons available for sale, much less being able to even try them out before buying at the indoor range. You see, in Singapore, private gun ownership is illegal, and very strictly enforced. How strict? Well, getting caught with a weapon (either handgun or rifle) in your possession will get you a 20-year reservation at Changi Prison. Use that gun and injure someone (notice, I said “injure”, not “kill”), regardless of the reason or justification, and you hang.

Guns and firearms is a subject that is close to many Americans’ hearts, and they are a vigorously debated subject throughout the USA. I actually wrote this article because of a Facebook friend who is rabidly pro-gun… Multiple links to various “God, Guts, and Glory” sites around the web. Despite the propaganda that is issued by such groups, America is, perhaps, the most liberal country in the entire world for legal gun ownership.

In most countries, legal firearms ownership is tightly restricted for citizens, and is nearly universally forbidden for foreigners (Even in the USA, you must be a legal permanent resident in order to own ANY firearm). Indeed, though I am largely in the anti-gun camp, I have owned a few guns over the years. Indeed, I can see the attraction of collecting guns, and I do enjoy shooting at targets. It is a fun activity when done safely, and I am, honestly, a decent shot. Before I moved overseas, I got rid of them. As I’ve gotten older, the less I like them, or want them around me, or my family. Indeed, I don’t even like the idea of giving Juanito toy guns, and was pretty irate at one of his uncles who gave him a toy gun (Though it was well-intentioned). Hence, the quote that opened this article… Guns are made to kill. Human or animal, that is their only purpose.

As stated above, the vast majority of countries in the world prohibit foreigners from owning guns… And the Philippines is no different. For those wanting to know: IT IS ILLEGAL FOR A FOREIGNER TO OWN ANY FIREARM IN THE PHILIPPINES. There are a number of reasons why any foreigner should pay close attention to that statement before even considering obtaining a firearm:

  1. I will state plainly, and clearly: A foreigner has no business owning a gun here, regardless of your politics or beliefs. The law is clear. If you are a foreigner and are caught in possession of a firearm, the penalty is fine, prison, deportation, and blacklisting. Use that gun, regardless of reason, and you are in for a world of hurt.
  2. Reading online on some of the various Philippines sites and forums, various ways “around” the law are often mentioned. Most common is that your Filipino spouse may legally own a gun. That is correct. The most often cited reason is “security” (more below, but normally veiled as “fear”). However, in a worst case scenario, say that weapon is used against a burglar. The police come, and see some Kano standing there with his spouse. The “pistol-packing mama” stereotype is pretty much unknown here. Filipino women, generally, do not shoot guns. Who do you think will be blamed? Do you really want to end up in the local justice system?
  3. Security is often mentioned as the reason for wanting to own a firearm. I saw one really vigorous online debate about the topic, where Manila was mentioned as being a “lawless wasteland”. These types of comments are usually from two sources: OFWs from other provinces who are no longer living in the Philippines, or racist, redneck, retirees who, for some reason, move here and act really paranoid. I can say, categorically, in the time that I have lived here, in Manila, I have never once felt threatened to the point where I felt I needed a gun or bodyguard. I have never once felt that I needed a gun in the house to keep myself or my family safe. If you are that worried about security, then why move here? There are many things you can do to keep safe… none of which involve guns. As I’ve written before, most foreigners here get in trouble from their own actions. They make themselves targets, and highly visible ones at that. The few high-profile cases highlighted in the media normally are either simply cases of bad luck, or they are situations where having a gun would make little difference in the outcome (If you are attacked by Abu-Sayaaf, do you honestly think that your .45 pistol will make ANY difference?) The vast majority of crimes in Manila are non-violent, not necessitating deadly force. In fact, I feel far safer here than in most large cities in the USA.
  4. I have also read online that some foreigners have obtained permission to own firearms from the local police chief or the local barangay officials. Perhaps that is the case. However, such permission generally contravenes R.A. 8294, which prohibits foreigners to own firearms. The reason that some foreigners may occasionally obtain such permission is that the PNP is charged with enforcing firearms laws, and the local PNP office, in theory, could give you permission (I am not a PNP officer, so I am uncertain… There could also be corruption involved). For foreigners who are bound and determined to try this, something to keep in mind, however, is this: Rebecca’s family has several ex police chiefs, including her father and uncle. I was told that, in order to prevent sympathies with local rebels, PNP staff are routinely posted far from their home provinces, and their postings are frequently shifted. If you get permission from one chief, that permission may vanish when he is transferred, and you are now illegal. Additionally, there is a big difference between having permission to keep, and actually using a firearm. Should you hold such permission, it would be unwise to use the weapon except under the most extreme, truly life-threatening, circumstances.
  5. Guns range from the ridiculously cheap, on the black market, to the ridiculously expensive. You can even find 50 cal. machine guns, or AK 47 assault rifles for sale here. When you start talking that kind of firepower, “security” starts looking like a lame excuse.
  6. Ammunition is also tightly controlled, and very expensive here (depending on the type, from P30 to P1,000 per round). The Philippines has become a very minor destination for what you might term “gun tourism” for people from Japan, Thailand, Singapore, or China: Locations where gun ownership is tightly restricted or forbidden. As a result, a common scam has arisen, especially in Manila, where people will stand outside of hotels offering you the chance to shoot a machine gun for a ridiculously low price. The scam is that they lure you in, and charge ludicrous amounts for ammunition (which is expensive to begin with, anyway… Think about how many rounds you can shoot in just a minute) and you receive a gigantic bill, in the hundreds of US dollars. Of course, if you don’t pay, there are usually several associates nearby who are more than willing to help you find your wallet in a store filled with guns.
  7. There is a bill, Senate Bill 2993, that was introduced by Senator Lacson in October. The bill, if it passes into law, will allow limited ownership of firearms to priests, media, and a very limited number of foreigners. Don’t get to excited about this, though. The bill was introduced as a response to several recent, high profile, killings of priests and reporters in certain areas of the country where there have been problems. The foreigner provision is designed for high net-worth and high profile executives of foreign companies that are doing business in places (like the Japanese mining executives who were killed). The bill is not intended for the average foreign retiree, and you will need to prove your need and net worth in order to secure a permit: Something that 99.9% of foreigners living here will be unable to prove.
  8. Perceived threats are often just a perception. In my industry, where piracy is a big problem, the safety issue about guns onboard vessels is brought up often. Let me put it this way: Will having a few rifles onboard prevent an attack by 15 mosquito boats armed with RPGs? No. The threat is real, but there are other, far more effective, deterrents (like security guards, escorts, convoys, and new devices that are non-lethal, but effective.)

Despite the large number of guns in the country, the Philippines has a history that is decidedly not pro-gun: Guns can precipitate rebellion. The Spanish generally prohibited Filipinos from owning weapons. As an American colony, the Second Amendment rights were never extended to the Philippines. There are active rebellions in Mindanao, and the NPA is also active. One of the legacies of the Marcos years was the prohibition of Filipinos owning guns. Many kept a few hidden at home anyway, but an enduring legacy is that, even for Filipinos, it is time-consuming (At least one month for a permit) and can still be difficult to legally own a gun (There are background, employment, and income requirements).

Additionally,  laws against the use of firearms are strict, and there are huge increases in penalties if used. That is why there is a large black market for guns… They are difficult to legally acquire. As stated above: Most countries in the world do not want foreigners owning guns. Period. I can understand if you have a large collection back home, or simply enjoy hunting. However, the risks are real, and you are playing a dangerous game if you insist on keeping guns here. It is unlikely that the rules will ever be changed to allow foreigners anything even remotely similar to the loose laws in the USA. Simply get the idea out of your head and forget about it. If you don’t like it, find another country in which you can live, owning all of the guns your heart desires.

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JohnM

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

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Neal in RI
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Neal in RI

John,
This article hits close to home as I am a bit of a Gun person.
Since we sold our house in preparation for our move the the RP we have been living in a apartment in a darker side of town. My trusty Glock 21 .45 sits on the nightstand and my Pride and Joy Norinco MAK 90 AK47 stands against the wall with a loaded 30 round mag, and my Wife is deadly accurate with both of them.

Not trying to hijack this post but any one in the US interested in buying them get in touch with me.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Neal:
It is best that you do sell them before moving… Many foreigners have gotten into trouble here over gun ownership. You can usually go to the range here and either rent a gun for the day or go with Filipino friends, though. There is nothing illegal about that.

Neal in RI
Guest
Neal in RI

John
I agree and I am currently trying to sell them, as well as my Harley as it will be tooo expensive to import it there even in my Wife’s name as we had originally planned planned.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Neal: Yep, the Harley will be expensive… and can be difficult to import besides. As a side note, the other day I was over at Araneta Center by the security office (It is next to the bus terminal). Security there rides old Harley police bikes from the 60’s and 70’s.

steven pedullo
Guest

Hi john, my wife is a filipina and i just bought a house in Tagaytay. we are headed there in January to close on it. We will vacation there twice a year and live there when i retire in 3 years. are there expats from the U.S. that live or speak to each other on the net close by?

Papa Duck
Guest
Papa Duck

Neal,
I will be selling my trusty old S&W .357 Revolver and my department issued S&W MP .40 handgun that i get to keep when i retire in 2 years. My future brother in law wanted my handguns if they were permitted in the PI. He and his brother are bank security guards in Manila. At least we can still do target practice. I saw your AK47 in f/b, looks nice. Take care my friend and be safe.

Valsore
Guest
Valsore

Neal, I take it from John’s discussion that it is perfectly ok for your wife to own a the guns she’s accustomed to, in the Philippines. So she (and you) can still visit shooting tanges with them in Manila if you can get a membership for yourself. Knowing Americans being one of the most favored foreigners in the Philippines, I don’t see any reason why not.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

I have two questions for you Neal
#1 what do you mean by “the DARKER side of town .
#2 is your wife Filipina

Farleytron
Guest
Farleytron

He means, “I’m a paranoid racist and wish someone brown would do something so I can shoot them”

Lamont Harris
Guest

Took the words right out of my mouth!!!

Paul Thompson
Member

John; Both in the Navy and as a US Merchant Seamen, I am (was) well trained in the use and safety of quite a few different military firearms. I’ve stood countless watches both in-port and underway anti-pirate watches. In Puerto Rico because I owned a business I was allow to carry (concealed) handgun. I have decided on my own that I no longer have the need or desire to own another weapon, and my right to bear arms now consists of wearing short sleeve shirts (I know it’s a dumb pun) but I would never infringe my views on anyone… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Paul: You are correct… When talking US vs. here, it is entirely two different things (And, I also know that parts of Puerto Rico, especially for a bar owner, can be dangerous and certainly could be considered justifiable)

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi John – I owned several firearms when in the States. When moving, I ran out of time to sell them (forgot until the last minute), and ended up giving them to my brother. I have never missed them, as I accept the fact that I cannot legally own firearms here. Many people (other foreigners) have told me that a gun is needed here for protection of the family. My thinking on that is that if I felt that a gun is needed to protect my family, this is not the place for me. Thankfully, I simply do not feel… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Bob: I don’t miss them either. As to protection, some of Rebecca’s relatives have them in the province (They are used and maintained so infrequently, and are so rusted, I would hesitate to even try and shoot one). Personally, I see no need to keep one in the house either, and Rebecca feels the same.

Neal in RI
Guest
Neal in RI

Bob
If your Bro is a Gun Nut tell him to shoot me a email.

Tommy
Guest
Tommy

“Simply get the idea out of your head and forget about it. If you don’t like it, find another country in which you can live, owning all of the guns your heart desires.”

Sounds arrogant to me.

there was some good information in the article but the last sentence is very arrogant. I notice that mentality a lot on some sites…..”If you dont like this or that about Philippines (corruption, videoke, healthcare, or whatever), why did you come here. Leave!” “If you want to own a gun here you are stupid and should leave”.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Tommy:

And what other suggestions would you have if someone doesn’t like it? What are they going to do? Can foreigners vote here? No. Do foreigners even have the tiniest input into the political process here? No.

If you are that dead set that you simply must own a gun, you really only have two options:

1. Keep it illegally and accept the risk.

2. Go elsewhere where it is legal.

Where is the arrogance in that?

Mike
Guest
Mike

John, I believe that the point Tommy is making is that some of the articles by yourself & others, and/or comments to various articles, often include some statement to the effect that if the reader doesn’t agree with a specific rule/law/practice/custom, he/she shouldn’t move to/live in The Philippines. When I have read such statements, such as the one Tommy has quoted, I often wonder who put the author – in this case, yourself – in the position of deciding who should/should not live in the Philippines? I met a lot of foreigners from all walks of life when I lived… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Mike: I’m not in the position to decide. However, the fact remains… If it is such a big issue to you, you realistically have two choices in either breaking the law or leaving. If you want to break the law, I really do not care. You are an outsider here, the same as I am. You are subject to the laws here. If you break the law here, including those related to gun ownership, you should be willing to accept the penalty, whether prison, fine, deportation, or all of the above. That is not me trying to act as a… Read more »

Ricardo T Yabut
Guest
Ricardo T Yabut

Dont worry most of the police in the philippine is corrupt you can get away with it as long you have money lol

Gerry Gambone
Guest
Gerry Gambone

Saying in the UK might originate from the US.
If you cannot do the time don’t do the crime.

As a guest in another country, we the guest have to abide by their laws.
If we don’t like their laws then don’t go. Simples.

I always thought UK had tough laws regarding guns….they seem limp compared to Singapore

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Why do you come here , and then complain ? this is not AMERICA . I am so happy that I live in a province where Americans dont want to go most dont even know about . There is no reason for you to own a gun here , and what makes you think that the Government here wants your sick minded political input ? My suggestion to you is . go back to the USA and you can have all the guns you want , and now you can shoot as many people as you want and not have… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Kevin: Well said.

Canadian
Guest
Canadian

Filipino have less guns then the u.s.a and MUCH HIGHER gun homicide rate, maybe none of you should have firearms. before you call people sick minded – remember that before the americans SAVED your country and lives in the war, you had nothing

Doug
Guest
Doug

I was given a gun permit by my local PNP in Nabunturan which is in Compostela Valley in Mindanao. i often go to the police range here and shoot with some of the officers here. Maybe in manila its hard for someone to get a gun permit but I have lived here 5 years and never had a problem. Also when i was at the city hall and my wife got a voters id they ask me if I wanted one I protested and said I do not think I can vote here they said I could and I got… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

If you show up to vote in a Philippine election, you could well end up in a Philippine jail. Be very careful. I would rip up that card and throw it away if I were you.

Martin Ford
Guest
Martin Ford

Hi all Just to add my 2 pence worth, I’m from the Uk so owning a hand gun is almost impossible, but as no one els has them I do not need one. In the US I take it if a local gets married to a US citizen he or she after 5 years can Aply for a gun license. I live hear with my wife and 2 children I have indefinite stay and an iCard ect. My wife has a license to carry for a 38 ppks so I have access to a gun if I need it. But… Read more »

steven pedullo
Guest

This why we have a problem in the USA , because people come here and think OUR laws don’t apply to them or simply refuse to change their way of thinkin, no one wants to become part of the country and society they have moved to. When i travel, especially to Asia , i follow there laws to the letter (u ever c the prisons in Thailand). I love having a gun in my NY home but when i move to the Philippines, i will trade it in for a Louisville slugger. If you don’t want to obey another countries… Read more »

paul portem
Guest
paul portem

Stay in the good ole USA. Right on.

Don
Guest
Don

I had read that Philippines was a pro gun country. While sitting with bunch of Filipino friends, guns was mentioned and about half pulled out pistols of some sort. Just about everyone it seems owns and carries guns. They said if you wanted a gun, just go down to where all the drivers hang out waiting for the families in the big condos, guards and drivers all sell guns like its a flea market. I dont have any problems at home saftey, but I do drive myself and would consider carrying while driving as I think car jacking is a… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Don:

There is a big difference between buying a gun on the black market and owning one legally. Additionally, if you actually use an unregistered gun, what do you think would happen to you in the local justice system?

Yes, anyone can buy a gun easily here… It would take me about an hour. Do I want to risk the penalties associated with such an act? No way.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Don – If you did get such a gun, and ever had to use it to protect yourself.. you are going to jail, because as a foreigner you cannot legally own a gun. Even if you are 100% in the right about shooting the perpetrator, you are still going to jail for the gun violation. If it comes down to car jacking, as you suggest, I’d rather just give up the car.

Roman
Guest
Roman

Sometimes better to be jailed than dead.

paul portem
Guest
paul portem

And I heard the Judicial system in my old country had improved a tiny bit!

steven pedullo
Guest

I don’t know if you realize what jail in the Philippines is like? If and when you travel to any Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines or even China for that matter, i strongly suggest you follow their laws pertaining to guns, drugs or contraband, their penalties are swift and extremely harsh and there prisons are harsher. You don’t want to seek justice in their system, there is very little and less for foreigners.

MikefromCebu
Guest
MikefromCebu

All I can say is that I have had several friends in Cebu offer me guns, and I know several people who have them, including my father in law. I will always have a home protection weapon wherever I live. And as of the Philippines, I would rather be in jail for a gun violation for shooting an intruder, as opposed to being dead on my living room floor. And if you really live in the Philippines, then you should know that there is NO charge that you cannot buy your way out of.

paul portem
Guest
paul portem

Right on! Mike.

Gerry Gambone
Guest
Gerry Gambone

Bob ( I do hope you are better and soon get your operation ) I enjoy driving, but I am too scared to drive in the Philippines, its safer for me to use a taxi.

paul portem
Guest
paul portem

You are right. I was born in Manila stayed until age 12. MOVED to California after Marcos was ousted. Still the corrupt country I knew when I was there. I went home not long ago after 33 years of absence. More pollution. More corrupt but just different people in government. Own guns. Try to get them legally. Also hire security if you can afford it. However do not trust anyone besides your close family. Even that is not good sometimes. My father learned the hard way. 9 .223s lodged in his chest. A couple on his head. Shotgun buckshots. This… Read more »

Don
Guest
Don

One has a duty to protect the family, but I hear you on the consequences. Carjackers in Manila will shoot their victims just as often as not.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Don: According to the PNP, there were around 1100 car thefts in Manila… One thing to keep in mind is that car thefts in general are also commonly referred to as carjackings here (This includes things like being bumped and the car stolen while you look for damage, theft while the car is filled at the gas station). The PNP also states that over 80% of carjackings occurred between the hours of 11 PM and 3 AM. Like anything else, it comes down to not making yourself a target. Also, giving up the car is probably the way to go…… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

As Bob stated, and as it relates to carjacking, there are only two possible outcomes:
1) You will end up without a car.
or,
2) You will end up without a car, and in jail.
Either way, you end up without a car!
Kind of a moot point the way I see it.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Would you be okay to own an air rifle to keep the rat population under control?

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Mike: I honestly don’t know if that is allowed… They are for sale in every mall here. Best way to find out for certain is to ask the clerk. Like in the States, gun shops will do the majority of the paperwork, so they would know for certain.

dans
Guest
dans

john,

airgun rifle is ok to own, i owned several of them and no license is needed just one-time registration only, i am not sure if foreigner can do that too.

Mark
Guest
Mark

On the subject of air rifles – I bought one a the local mall sports section in 2007 after moving here with my Filipina wife, We had semi-wild dogs in both our garden and the surrounding area and so I wanted something to take control of the situation. There is a requirement to take an air gun it to the local PNP station to have it certified as a ‘toy’ and not a proper firearm and, if I recall correctly, that cost about 200 Pesos and it was registered in my name (I am British). A while later we took… Read more »

Brent Johnson
Guest

John:

You wrote: “that’s why God invented insurance.”

Do you have any experience/knowledge about the reliability of an auto insurance company in the PHL actually paying on a claim for a traffic accident and getting your car repaired or even replaced if it is totaled? How about home owners insurance, if a typhoon wipes out your house in the PHL, are you SOL, or does insurance give you protection?

I’ve hear horror stories about warranties being largely useless, so I’ve wondered the same about insurance policies in the PHL.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Brent: Honestly, most P&C insurance policies are about half useless here… And there are many stories you read (I fortunately have never had to file a claim).

That said, if I’m faced with a carjacker, I think the safest course of action is to give them the vehicle… You can always fight with the insurance company later.

paul portem
Guest
paul portem

Unless they decide to shoot you nevertheless. Seen it happen. Good luck to you!

Don
Guest
Don

Brent – I use Chartis (Former AXA/AIG) and they are reliable at paying claims. Now if you have to get a police report, thats where you will run into problems. Basically, you will need to pay the PNP for their service. They wanted P2000 to write the report on a taxi that hit me.

PalawanBob
Guest
PalawanBob

“…Guns can precipitate rebellion…”
That is the reason why almost ALL governments in the world prohibits them…
As much as I am against possession of firearms I must admit that in USA it is necessary, that is the only way to protect citizen rights.

Here in Philippines, despite the official show of assault rifles in front banks it is comforting to know that it has been only a show so far.
Let’s hope it stays that way!

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Bob:

Even in the USA, the guns I had were locked up at home… I honestly used common sense as much as possible (avoiding bad neighborhoods, etc.)

That said, very few developed nations outside of the US allow foreigners to possess guns. (A good example that also frequently gets Americans into trouble is Mexico… Every year there are dozens of guests from the US who end up in Mexican jails due to guns)

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