THE election period has formally begun and it will be five months till local shooting events resume.

Gun club members will wait for June, excitement growing with each passing month. For gun club management, each passing month means getting deeper into the red.

No matches mean no range or match fees, no new memberships and no membership renewals.

But since ranges have regular employees, salaries still need to be paid.

I would be a fool to expect people outside the shooting community to care. To some, shooting is just something that people do and a gun club is just a place where the shooting is done. They have no way of knowing that gun clubs are industries among themselves.

The AFP Central Command Firing Range for example, home to Kamagong Gun Club for almost four decades now, is a source of income to several—people, heads of households, which the range directly employs for its day-to-day operation.

It is also a source of income to several teens, many living in the tough area surrounding the camp, who, by serving as “pulot” boys on afternoons or weekends, earn and save enough to send themselves to school and, hopefully, to the path to better lives.

Without income, the club may have to let go of its workers. Without matches, the pulot boys will have to find other means.

But, who cares? Certainly, very few from outside the shooting community; the concept is just too disproximate.

Maybe the issue can be brought closer to home if people can be convinced to see gun clubs as a service—the only place to get solid education on firearm safety, firearm ownership responsibility and firearm proficiency, at a time where guns are both taboo but cheap and aplenty.

The Philippines has a bad gun problem and having loose firearms is but a small part of it.

In 2010, the national police said that the number of undocumented guns out there has surpassed the 1.1-million mark. Going by the result of the 2010 census, that we are 92.34 strong, then one in 83 Filipinos has an unlicensed firearm.

I don’t think that most of those guns are in the hands of criminals; not unless we are ready to concede that one in 83 Filipinos are crooks.

No, and the police know it. In 2011, in fact, then PNP chief Nicanor Bartolome estimated that the number of guns “that could potentially be used to commit crimes” was about 600,000.

Now, if the former police chief can give estimates, doesn’t that mean that he has ways upon which to monitor these guns and, conversely, the people who have them? If so, then it stands to reason that this particular problem is solvable with little change in policy.

But what about the other half a million loose firearms that the police say are out there?

I would venture to guess that they are in the hands of ordinary people who have no plans of using them to commit crime and obtained them only as a means to protect themselves from the 600,000 others who could potentially victimize them.

Now, here is where things get tricky. Firearm ownership in the Philippines is a privilege extended only to those who can afford it. Those who do own guns but haven’t been extended the privilege to own one are deemed criminals even though they’ve committed no crime.

So what is a man with no criminal intent but with an unlicensed firearm do? He hides.

Where does he go to discover the error of his ways or, at the very least, get instruction so that he doesn’t endanger himself, his loved ones or members of his community? Certainly, not to the police.

If the stars conspire, the man could, however, find himself at a local gun club, where the man gets approached by some friendly range habitué and is offered a free lesson and the chance to check out a fully-documented factory-made and safety-certified gun.

But, wait. I forgot. The range is closed; gun ban.