Bitter motorist, gun: a bad mixBy Botchi Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Recently, an acquaintance of mine found himself staring at the business end of a firearm inside a shopping center here in the Metro Manila. He patiently lined up outside the mall’s carpark entrance (waiting for parking to free up) when another motorist—and his would be assailant—tried to cut in line ahead of him. Obviously miffed, my acquaintance honked his horn loudly. The cars behind noticed what this motorist is planning to do and sided with my acquaintance. Embarrassed at being singled out by everyone else, the motorist drove off.
Unfortunately for my acquaintance, this motorist was packing heat. He took note of my acquaintance (he is a big fellow and thus, easily identifiable) and went to look for him inside the mall, simply to confront him and point his gun at him. The two met and the one who tried to cut in line earlier took out his weapon and threatened my acquaintance. Fortunately, the situation was diffused.
While I am not here to give commentary on the obvious, my point in bringing up this incident is that most Filipinos, after they’ve tasted some power, success and connections, political, police and military, think they are a cut above the rest and can do as they please while stepping on other people’s toes. Being given a firearm with a license to carry it in public places just makes things worse. Look at all the high-profile motoring altercations that ended in bloodshed/death over the last 20 or so years. All the assailants later admitted to not having worth carrying a firearm around. Studies the world over have shown that civilians with firearms tend to give them a sense of power and superiority, the ability to take life in its purest form.
To quote that famous line in the Spiderman movie: “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Are we prepared to have that ability, that power to take and end life with us?
Which brings me to my point. In other countries, gun laws are very explicit. You can carry a firearm but there are very explicit restrictions: no fully automatic weapons and submachine guns, nothing larger than a certain caliber, cannot be carried in a concealed manner and must be duly surrendered to the authorities when entering a controlled environment. More laws exist that only individuals with an established threat of life and limb (established by the police or other government agencies in their respective countries) are allowed to own and carry a firearm around. Dutiful citizens will no doubt follow a gun ban if the government enforces it, but criminals will still carry firearms, loose ones at that. The government should hence strictly enforce a new and comprehensive gun ban, have more police checkpoints especially in highly populated and affluent areas, and create tighter guidelines to owning and carrying it around (ideally only professionally trained individuals such as police, military and security personnel). Toll booths on toll roads would make for an excellent place to put checkpoints.
What is the relevance of firearms in a vehicle? There is no other day-to-day activity that can trigger (pardon the pun) an altercation where guns are involved than when inside a car. Like the aforementioned cutting in line on a long queue on a parking lot, counter-flowing, right of way in an intersection, the list goes on. People already have issues with traffic, parking and basic courtesy. But slowly things are changing. It will take more time for the motoring culture to improve but until then we must be extra-careful and vigilant. Allowing people to carry a firearm in public only makes things worse.
On the motoring side, we should all leave no space and place for people who do not have the patience to line up. A lot of motorists are lazy and inattentive; they leave huge gaps ahead of them in bumper-to-bumper traffic, which allows other motorists to cut in ahead of them, which can provoke an altercation. As motorists, we should be conscientious enough to leave a tight but safe gap ahead of us (ideally no more than a meter or so) in bumper-to-bumper traffic to keep the queue moving consistently and deter would-be line jumpers from cutting in. And if we don’t mind that someone else cuts ahead of us in a line, remember that the person behind you might get irked and you’ll find yourself in an altercation with the motorist behind you. Be alert, keep your eyes focused ahead even when things are slow and easy, make no room for would-be line jumpers, and honk your horn respectfully but firmly to deter line jumpers.
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