In this paper, we will argue that prohibition of gun ownership for civilians/ non-commissioned citizens is unethical and impractical. We will assert that prohibition of guns will not resolve crimes and will not eliminate accidents. Our stand is to create better provisions or to improve the current law, that will cater the interests of many (the gun owners and users and the common civilians) which is better that side with a certain group. The recent call to prohibit gun ownership for civilians here in the Philippines became rampant after the death of Stephanie Nicole Ella, a 7-year-old child that was hit by a stray bullet last New Year’s Eve.
Three days after the death of Stephanie, a shooting rampage in Kawit, Cavite that left 8 people dead and 12 others wounded. These successions of events alerted many Filipinos including the Roman Catholic bishops together with other concerned citizens who voiced out their calls for a permanent gun ban. In fact, gun ban in the Philippines is only observed during elections, but the above-mentioned people wanted the government to implement a total gun ban through out the year. 1 Now here comes the ethical dilemma. If the government implements a total gun ban, then those who own guns or using guns would protest.
On the other hand, if we continue living under the same status quo, some people would say that the government is not considering their safety. We will be analyzing the said topic with utilitarian ethics which deals with the greater good principle, which means that the right act is the one that produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number. (Mill, 1871) Utilitarianism is a theory under normative ethics that is claiming that the proper course of action should be the one that maximizes utility. It is based on the principle of utility.
Under this theory, utility is defined as something that is found in everything which contributes to the happiness of every rational being. 2 It has two main elements namely: happiness and consequentialism. (Utilitarian Philosophy, n. d. ) We will define those two main elements which will be used in defending our thesis. First, “utilitarian happiness is the happiness that every human being is looking for”. What is good or what is evil is balanced between the happiness of an individual and the community, as what Bentham would say “each counting in an equal way. ” (Utilitarian Philosophy, n. d. An example of this would be “my search for happiness stops when it decreases the happiness of another person or the happiness of many.
Another common example of this is “my freedom stops when it diminishes the freedom of another or the freedom of many” (Kwe, 2013) Second, consequentialism refers to how “the action is judged for the consequences on the happiness of the largest number” (Utilitarian Philosophy, n. d. ). Since owning a gun itself is not enough reason to tell if an act is moral or not, Kantian ethics would not be best suited in analyzing the ethicality of the aforementioned topic. The debate about gun ownership is really looking at the consequences of the said action, if it would bring “good” to the country; not the mere idea of the citizens owning a gun. With this line of thought, utilitarian ethics will be best suited in analyzing the ethicality of gun ownership of non-commissioned citizens. To focus on the moral status of owning a gun we need to consider two important points related to the issue. First, owning gun may not be a constitutional right (Macaraig, 2010) but some consider it to be a right for self-defense (Laurel, 2013).
It is like saying that it is morally acceptable if a person feels secured for having an armed possession, as it is part of his rights, provided that his usage will not violated rights of others. Another thing, prohibition of gun ownership is a very unpopular law, even our president expressed his dislike of it4, there will be people who will not readily submit to this law, therefore, enforcing this law would be very time-consuming and costly. In order to implement this law, the severity of the harm that owning a gun bring must be supported with enough proof.
However, if the government would criminalize an action that occasionally lead to some harm then it would lead to criminalizing most behavior. (LaFollette, 2000) A perfect example is the Senate Bill 2993, authored by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, which is envisioned to “minimize, if not to totally eradicate gun violence in the country. ” Under this bill, instead of having 12 years imprisonment and Php. 30,000. 00 fine for those who will be found guilty of illegal possession and manufacturing firearms and ammunitions, the penalty will rise to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. Consequently, limiting private ownership of guns is acceptable unless there is a “good reason to think that would prevent serious harm” (LaFollette, 2000). But in our case, good reason/s, the accidental killing of a 7-year old and a shooting rampage, that many gun ban advocates cite are not enough to convince us that private ownership of guns would indeed inflict that much damage. Banning of guns encourage criminal acts such as illegal gun trading, especially during elections.
Politicians who think that their life would be in danger if they do not have a gun would resort to the black market to purchase guns (Mogato, 2012). Another problem is gun-related homicides. Seeing that people have no means to protect themselves, criminals will have a better chance of doing crimes. This results to a higher gun-related homicide rate –in comparison with the United States which has the highest per-person percentage of gun ownership in the world (Stacklin, 2013)– despite the fact that the Philippines has stricter laws regarding private gun ownership.
The reason is that there are an estimated 160,750 illegal guns (GunPolicy. org, n. d. ). Thus, the problem really lies on the wrong usage of illegal guns. With the concept of happiness in utilitarianism, it is ethical that the government should not prohibit gun ownership for civilians, but instead implement thorough processes before issuing licenses. After all, “licensed gun owners are NOT [emphasis not mine] the problem; the problem is loose and unlicensed firearms in the hands of criminals” (Fallujah, 2013).
With this, the government should make sure that the gun usage approval they are issuing to civilians is carefully thought of; they shouldn’t be negligent in giving away such privileges. This way, the gun owners and users, together with the other members of society is given considerations on their wants, therefore both sides are happy. Applying the concept of consequentialism in utilitarianism on the topic of gun ban would be that the government will create provisions that will cater what most people will benefit from.
An example of this is a gun ban during the electoral process. Since there are many records of deaths in relation to political killings during the electoral process, the government should decide to maximize security by assigning more police force instead of confiscating guns from private owners. In this situation, many are benefited. We propose that the government should use its resources to track the illegal firearms, apprehend illegal users and prevent the illegal trade of these firearms.
Just like what Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said in an interview, “We are not a country that implements the law. There are still many loose firearms. It should serve as a challenge to authorities, particularly, Roxas especially this coming election. Hired goons of politicians and private armies are still there. So the need for a strong political will for government to go after all these loose firearms is needed. Control the use of guns. Control the issuance of licenses. ”