IN AN email sent recently, self-defense trainer and firearm rights advocate Mike Melchor of Manila expressed worry that a firearm measure eyed in General Santos City will lay to waste the hard-earned success achieved by the A2S5 Coalition just a few months ago.

The statute, being pushed by Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, seeks to declare the entire General Santos City a gun-free zone and cites as basis the “prevalence of gun-related killings” there having reached an “alarming level.”

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“Can a mayor impose her own gun ban?” Mike posed.

He added: “As usual, they are doing it to protect the people from criminals—hence good folks are left defenseless. It’s the same old crap. But if we don’t fight, she establishes a beach-head for the other side.”

The A2S5 Coalition is a sizeable group of licensed gun-owning businessmen, private individuals, government workers and sport-shooting aficionados. It enjoys the support of many gun-owners in Cebu although a formal chapter has yet to be formed.

United Front. The coalition, to which Mike is an active member, was instrumental in opposing the PNP’s previous plan of extending the election gun ban infinitely, beyond its June 9, 2010 sunset date.

In just a few months, it has also proven itself to be an effective organized opposition against those I like to call “dictators-in-the-making.”

These are people who want to disarm the law-abiding citizenry so they could consolidate power among themselves and be risk-free in trampling other people’s freedoms.

The name A2S5 derives from Article 2, Section 5 of the Philippine Constitution–“The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.”

Ill intent. In fairness, Mayor Custodio seems too pretty to be the war-lord type.

If it were any other politician in the same geographic location, I would immediately suspect that the gun-free zone declaration is just a pretense to disarm the opposing warlord and, in the process, leave law-abiding citizens defenseless.

General Santos City is merely a few hours by van from Maguindanao.

But the mayor could simply be pushing for a gun ban out of a sincere belief that this will somehow curb the killings in her area and promote peace and order.

In fact, in her official website,, and I hope she stands by her words here, she did say the declaration “does not prejudice against civilians who possess firearms, which have proper licenses.”

De Facto. However, she cited the highly ill-conceived PNP Memorandum Circular 2010-008 as the basis in declaring her city a gun-free zone. And herein is the problem.

The circular provides a “strictly no firearms rule” in declared gun-free zones and only members of the NP, AFP and other law enforcement agencies performing official duties may carry firearms in there.

As such, regular permits to carry firearms outside residence are not recognized and have no effect in the area. It is, therefore, still a gun ban.

I find two things wrong with this picture.

First, only law-abiding citizens, who face the cancellation of their licenses and, as a result, criminal liability, will observe the city as a gun-free zone. It’s still same-old-same-old for criminals. This has been proven in the so many gun bans imposed in the past.

Second, an existing law—Republic Act 8294—already prohibits the possession of unlicensed guns as well as carrying a licensed gun in public without a permit. No declarations are necessary, just the religious implementation of an existing law.

It strikes me as odd that Mayor Custodio, in making the declaration, cited Presidential Decree 1866. That law has long been amended.

I hope this does not go to show just how little government officials know about existing firearm legislation and, worse, that the declaration is merely a knee-jerk reaction to the problem of people dying as a result of crime.