A Foreigner Cannot be In Possession Of A Firearm

When I first arrived in the Philippines I had learned that a foreigner in the Philippines could not own a firearm. Like many things I learned, and even read law on, I later found out I was mistaken.

When I was first researching the issue I found that a foreigner in possession of a gun could get life in prison for that. I don’t pretend to know any more what the sentence could actually be.  There are many laws on the books that have been changed or repealed in the Philippines. A memo from the president in the Philippines can have the effect of law. Sometimes that law is challenged but until it is, it is the law of the land. For example the death penalty was repealed by using a memo. I think they call it a Presidential Order but I’m not sure I have the term correct.

I’ve seen countless instance of authoritative sources explaining just how a foreigner can own a gun. I’m still pretty certain a diplomat can. That is what is bothering me about the response I recieved from the chief of the Firearms and Explosive Office of the Philippine National Police.

I spent almost 20 years working with American law. That is just it though, it was American law and it was almost entirely about taxes. The first thing I learned, even while still in college was that there is ALWAYS an exception to the law. There are usually exceptions to the exception and court rulings that add even more complications to the matter.  Working in such an environment can make one rather humble. I often found the more certain I was of a situation, the more likely there would be something that could negate that. I never thought of it but I bet that has contributed to my willingness to process new and opposing information.

The response I received from the PNP was short and allowed for no expecptions. It stated plainly that a foreigner could not possess a firearm. It went on to say that there was no constitutional right to allow a citizen to possess a firearm either.

Here is the meat of the letter I recieved in PDF format via email:

Please be informed that pursuant to Standard Operating Procedure No. 13 entitled”Licensing of Firearms” revised October 08, 2008, only a Filipino Citizen and at a legal age of Twenty One (21) years old cttn possess a firearm here in the Philippines.
Furthermore, owning a firearm is not a constitutional right but a mere statutory
privilege granted to those qualified individuals.

So there it is. No exception and simple possession is enough to be in violation. What is possession in Philippine law? I don’t know. To me, If I’m holding a gun I am in possession of it.

If I got to a firing range where I can partake in target practice, I’m holding a gun. I have control over it and I decide how it gets used while it is in my hand.  Still, I know it is common for foreigners to visit these locations and they do fire weapons there.

I know a foreigner that loves to go hunting on regulated game preserves in Mindanao. Though he is the only person I’ve every heard say that. That was the first time I ran into someone telling me you could possess a firearm in the Philippines. I thought to myself and thought he was just asking for heaps of trouble.

Then one day as I was headed to Bantayan Island, I was reading a local paper. I am not sure which one. Probably the Freeman or Cebu Daily News as those are the ones I read them most often. It detailed out the requirements for gun ownership in the Philippines. It provided in detail the fees required for a foreigner to own a gun in the Philippines. I was excited until I saw the fees and decided I wouldn’t be doing that.

I’ve owned a gun since I was in the fourth grade. That is when I got my first one. I thought it was the coolest thing on earth. I didn’t even realize that a 20 gauge was smaller than a 12 gauge.  The point is, I’ve been around guns nearly all my life. I lived in the “country” for a year or two as a child. Some of best memories are of that time. I went hunting every time I could buy a box of shells as we called them.

I felt a little naked not being able to carry the 45 I had when I lived in Memphis. I had obtained a permit to carry after having the fear of death put into me by several sets of thugs not far from my home. Before I left the USA, I sold all my guns except for one. No way will I ever sell that 20 gauge.

Now I have the leading authority of enforcing gun laws in the Philippines tell me I cannot possess a firearm in the Philippines. That leave me to be forced to change my mind about what I thought to be true.

Now this law is by a presidential order. That means, should another president or the congress of the Philippines decide to, a different law could easily become the law of the land. Until that happens, I’m left with no choice but to conclude it is illegal for a foreigner to own a gun in the Philippines.

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Filed under: Expats in the Philippines

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